LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Luxury suites, parking, and transportation flow will all be ready for the public during the 144th Running of the Kentucky Derby. Since 2005, Churchill Downs has put $250 million toward improvements.
Phase one of the parking project is completed and is supposed to lessen congestion and get guests to their seats quicker.
"It's a challenge bringing 170,000 people to a venue for one day," said Ryan Jordan, Churchill Downs General Manager.
The large crowds will start showing up on Saturday for opening night. While the parking lot updates did not add parking spots, an expanded entrance gate at the Paddock should alleviate congestion.
"The Paddock is such an important area of the track," Jordan said. "It's where jockeys get on their horses before they get out to the race track there is great energy there is a lot of tradition in the Paddock."
The expansion made the Paddock area itself over 100,000 square feet larger. Outside the track, all parking at Churchill Downs is reserved for guests with parking passes. Parking in neighborhoods and surrounding lot parking is encouraged. A temporary pedestrian bridge is intended to keep shuttles moving through the drop off area.
"Your parking and arrival options will vary depending on which day you are coming to the track," Katherine Kington North, a spokesperson for Churchill Downs said.
Shuttles from surrounding lots will be available on certain days.
Starting on Thurby, Central Avenue will be restricted to shuttles from Crittenden Drive to Taylor Boulevard. To keep shuttles flowing pedestrians will cross Central Avenue only at Third or 9th Street.
"This whole process is to make it as efficient and a better safer process for everyone coming to the track," Kington North said.
Also new this Derby Week, guests will be walking through metal detectors and scanning their own tickets at the turnstiles.
A new luxury area called the Starting Gate Suites added 1,800 seats. The suites that overlook the top of the home stretch are valued around $130,000 during Derby Week and are booked.
"We know we have to keep things fresh and make things exciting," said Kevin Flanery, president of Churchill Downs Racetrack. "At the same time, we must cherish that history because guests are coming for that spectacle and the history of the race. But they want to do it in comfort and they want to do it in style."
After Derby, the suites are going to be available for everyday racegoers at a much lower price.
Construction crews will get back to work after Mother's Day and continue to work on the new parking lots closer to Longfield Avenue. That portion of the project will be complete before the Breeders' Cup on November 2.