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Churchill Downs lays out plans to turn Turfway into state-of-the-art racetrack

Posted at 11:55 PM, Oct 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-16 00:52:49-04

"We want to let horsemen around the country know that Turfway Park is coming back. It's for real. And it's going to be around for a long time."

That was Kevin Flanery, president of Churchill Downs, presenting his company’s plans for Turfway Park to Florence City Council Tuesday.

Churchill Downs, the biggest name in horse racing, bought the Florence track less than one week ago and plans to invest $150 million in replacing the 60-year-old facility.

Churchill Downs’ goal is to make Turfway state-of-the-art, create a better guest experience and draw some of the top talent in horse racing.

"We are where we needed to be," Flanery said.

Starting, out of the gate, with a new name.

"Turfway Park Racing and Gaming is a reality in Summer 2021," Flanery said. "We're going to do it right. That's our starting point."

Outside, renderings show tree-lined parking areas.

"We want to make sure the experience people have at Turfway Park begins long before they get to their seat," Flanery said.

Speaking of seats, there will be 2,500 in the grandstand area. The facility will have about 1,500 machines.

There will a be new ballroom space seating more than 1,000 and several bars that will draw in visitors year-round.

As for the track, a new dirt track will go inside of the synthetic track already in place.

Purses for races will double to $24,000. It's the first step in getting better horses and better racing.

It’s all about opportunity, Flanery said.

"I see the future when I look at it, a place that folks want to love and want to be a part of," Flanery said.

The new facility will create 800 construction jobs and 400 permanent jobs in the community, according to Flanery.

Mayor Diane Whaley said she is excited for the vision some considered a long shot years ago.

"It's in bad need of a re-do,” Whalen said. “This is the perfect opportunity to put the exclamation point in horse racing for Northern Kentucky."

It would also be a great place for sports betting should that become legal in Kentucky. Churchill Downs’ move to buy Turfway gives it a foothold in Northern Kentucky if and when that happens.

State Rep. Adam Koenig of Florence said his proposal would require bets to be placed through horse tracks or Kentucky Speedway.

So many of our border states - Indiana, Illinois, even Tennessee, West Virginia have all passed it. I wouldn't be surprised if Ohio passes it," Koenig said.