LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Churchill Downs is nearing completion of its $200 million paddock project.

What You Need To Know

  • Churchill Downs is reshaping its paddock at a cost of $200 million

  • The horse stalls have moved to the opposite side of the track 

  • Redesigned suites offer views of the stalls

  • Opening Night is Saturday, April 27, before Kentucky Derby 150 takes place Saturday, May 4

The 150th running of the Kentucky Derby is just weeks away, and the spectator experience will be different this year as Churchill Downs undergoes a $200 million paddock redesign project.

"It is night and day," said Chris Galopin, Churchill Downs director of construction. "It just feels a lot more intentional now in this design, walking in, seeing the paddock, seeing the horses."

Galopin said the new design is more like a stadium, with second- and third-story seating nearly circling the paddock.

“The paddock is bigger," he said. "It’s more of an oval now than a tighter oval, as it was in the past."

The grandstand sign at Churchill Downs, commemorating the first Kentucky Derby in 1875 with the 150th running of the Derby just weeks away. (Spectrum News 1/Jonathon Gregg)

There are changes everywhere. The horse stalls have been moved to the opposite side of the paddock track, and for certain suite tickets, there's subterranean access.

An underground corridor gradually moves above ground, wrapping around the paddock area. The redesigned paddock sits lower than the previous, allowing for an expanded second level looking toward the paddock gate entrance.

“It makes the paddock a focal point," Galopin said.

In a second-floor corridor, Churchill Downs has exposed and highlighted brick and iron beams from the original structure that have been covered for decades.

The Woodford Reserve suites are on the other side of the paddock stalls, and glass walls allow for an unobstructed view of the riders and horses before each race.

"People love to see the horses up close and personal," said Darren Rogers, Churchill Downs senior director of communications and media services. "They like to see them saddled; there’s something majestic when the jockey gets a leg."

Rogers said tickets for Kentucky Derby 150 are in high demand, but a few packages remain. He added the paddock project will be ready for Opening Night, Saturday, April 27.