Churchill Downs: Neighbors say historic track can do more for the community

Churchill Downs: Neighbors say historic track can do more for the community

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The 146th Kentucky Derby falls on the year of change in Louisville and across the country.

Community members are demanding more from businesses and political leaders, among others. During its famous week of celebration, neighbors are asking for more from Churchill Downs.

Black gates guard the glamour, greatness, and glory of Churchill Downs, the most popular neighbor in Louisville’s 15th District. Churchill Downs Inc. put up Nova Jackson’s fence and helps with her landscaping after the company bought and tore down the home next to her. She said if she ever needs help with anything, Churchill is one call or step away.

”I can’t say nothing against them,” Jackson said.

Robert Murphy lives farther down, however, still within walking distance.

“It’s big business,” Murphy said. “They do what they want to. There’s nothing we can say or do to slow them up or stop them.”

A WAVE 3 News crew walked around the Oakdale neighborhood on three separate days. Neighbors said other than traffic on Derby, they have no issues with the actual event until it’s over.

The issues can be seen looking at Paul Knowles’ home security setup. There’s one thing you’ll never see him without. From the bed to his sidewalk, his gun stays on his side.

”It’s that bad,” Knowles said, adding that he’s lost track of the number of robberies and shootings on his block.

One doorbell away, Barbara Hall said she wants Churchill to help make it a safer neighborhood all year round, not just during its busiest season.

”Hoping they might have some investment in the alley cameras,” Hall said.

”They have a lot of cops around here for Derby,” Knowles said. “I mean two blocks around.”

Councilwoman Barbara Sexton Smith confirmed the city spent $866,000 for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of last year’s Derby. Smith told WAVE 3 News that Churchill reimbursed the city approximately $200,000. A similar pattern is expected for the upcoming years.

”Why doesn’t Churchill Downs pay that?” Knowles asked.

When asked that question, Councilman Kevin Triplett said ”it was a larger number than we thought. We’ll be negotiating with Churchill Downs.”

District 3 Councilwoman Keisha Dorsey said she wants Churchill to be more hands-on west of its gates and with minority organizations.

“This isn’t about saying what Churchill isn’t doing,” Dorsey said. “It’s about what Churchill could be doing better.”

Churchill Downs said its foundation is an outlet to support neighbors’ concerns. CDI said it contributes more than $2 million a year to local organizations to provide meaningful opportunities. Vice President of Communications Tonya Aben said Churchill supports the following organizations: Simmons College, Dare to Care, Feed My Neighbor, Bridgeman Foundation, Darrell Griffith Foundation, South Louisville Community Ministries, Black Business Association, Derby Diversity Business Summit, Louisville Defenders, and many others. Multimillion-dollar expansion projects at Churchill are in the works with its gaming, new hotel, and more.

Jackson said the homes that used to line her neighborhood are no longer there because of Churchill’s growth. Murphy said his block has started to change because of Churchill’s expansion as well.

“(I’m) not going nowhere unless they put me out bodily,” Murphy said. No matter what Churchill does, he said he doesn’t want to get pushed out.

Jackson voiced a different view.

”Well if they come by and want to buy I’ll sell to them,” she said.

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