LOUISVILLE, Ky. — If Jeff Palmquist is told one more time that work on the Homestretch Club, the new $45 million project at Churchill Downs, is in the homestretch, he may snap.
“I can’t tell you how many people have told me that,” said Palmquist, who has led construction on the job since it started last August. “I wanted to strangle them for it.”
Palmquist has a right to be stressed. Pulling off this massive project in just nine months, amid supply chain shortages and the complications that come with renovating 19th century construction, was no small feat. But the Louisvillian and his team did it.
“It’s fully done — minus a little bit of paint,” he said Tuesday.
By Saturday, that paint will be dry and race fans will file into the Homestretch Club as Churchill Downs kicks off Derby Week. A club membership is $850 for access on 17 premium race days in 2022, excluding the Oaks and Derby. Tickets for those two days range from $2,950 to $3,750 per seat.
Those fortunate enough to make it into the club will see original artwork and twinkling chandeliers as they enter the 18,600-square-foot space. The centerpiece of the room is a 95-foot bar that is the “longest in Kentucky until somebody tells us otherwise,” said Churchill Downs spokesperson Darren Rogers.
More than 5,000 old bleacher seats were cleared to make way for the Homestretch Club and its 2,618 cushioned stadium seats. The club also includes 73 covered dining tables on an outdoor terrace and 23 trackside Horseshoe Lounges.
The cushioned u-shaped couches are a cross between “VIP bottle service in a club and NBA floor seats,” Rogers said.
The trackside lounges are a particular favorite of Palmquist’s.
“When you have a big field of horses, those outside horses want to get to the rail fast, so you’re going to experience that, almost feel it,” he said. “Then they’re going to come around again and you’re going to get to see the winners fight for that win. I get goosebumps just talking about it.”
The Homestretch Club is the first of a three-part track upgrade that is scheduled to be completed in time for the 150th Kentucky Derby in 2024.
Part two calls for spending $90 million on building the “Turn 1 Experience.” This will include 7,100 all-inclusive seats and a new, 50,000-foot hospitality venue.
The final, and most significant project, is a redesign of the famed Paddock. Details on that project are still limited, but Rogers said Tuesday that it will be a big one. “It might be the most transformative project that we’ve endured and it will be just in time for the 150th Kentucky derby in 2024,” he said.