LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Kevin Flanery, the retiring president of Churchill Downs, spoke with pride Monday about the relationship the historic racetrack has with the neighborhood outside its gates.
But when the streets filled with protestors calling for change this year, he said it was time for him to listen.
“This community has been through a lot this year,” Flanery said. “And we wanted to make sure that we were a part of that dialogue, to listen to the pain that some folks are having so that we can respond to that. And we’ve been working with some local leaders about some things that we’ll announce in the coming weeks actually. But it’s really about folks feeling a part of the solution. Having a solution that means being part of the solution. So that listening is very important and that listening is ongoing.”
Already struggling through a pandemic, Churchill Downs and Flanery were confronted with demands from protesters to do more in helping the community share in the track’s success. As one of his last orders of business before retirement, Flanery said a plan is in the works.
”I think that it’s a matter of the many voices that are talking to us,” he said. “It’s a lot of the things that we’ve worked on in the past, a lot of things that we’ve accomplished that people don’t understand. So educating people on the things that we’ve been focused on, but also listening, because it’s not only about how we perceive the needs of the community, it’s making sure the community is telling us what they need.”
Flanery would not elaborate on what issues have been discussed or who has been in the discussions initiated after the protests.
”I think every year the Derby is something that means a lot to a lot of different people in a lot of different ways,” Flanery said. “And I think this was a tough year for everyone. I’m so proud of the team for getting the event done. It’s the 146th consecutive year the event was held. And it was an opportunity for us to start a dialogue. That dialogue is important and will continue on.”