Keeneland To Construct New Paddock Building, Enhancements To Saddling Paddock

Artist's rendition of view from inside the Keeneland paddock | Keeneland photo

Officials at Keeneland have announced plans for major capital investments at the historic Lexington oval, including the constuction of a permanent Paddock Building and a reimagined saddling experience. The project, which is expected to cost $93 million, is the largest undertaking of its variety since Keeneland opened 90 years ago and marks the first major construction at the track since the construction of the Keeneland Library in 2002. Construction is scheduled to begin following the 2024 Keeneland January Horses of All Ages Sale and is expected to be completed by the fall of 2025.

The new Paddock Building, to be located alongside the paddock and walking ring, will offer expanded viewing and dining experiences available to the public not only during the spring and fall race meetings, but also during Keeneland auctions and will also be available for year-round use to accommodate special events. The saddling stalls will also be repositioned to offer the safest possible environment for equine and human participants and will also give racing fans an unmatched view of the saddling paddock.

“Keeneland's founding mission is to be a model race track, to invest in the future of our sport, to enrich our Central Kentucky community and to always do what is best for the horse,” Keeneland President and CEO Shannon Arvin said. “This project is central to our mission because it will allow us to welcome more fans and give them a variety of world-class experiences during our race meets and beyond. The improvements to our saddling processes are not only functional in providing more space for horses and horsemen, but the results will offer unobstructed views to showcase the beauty and pageantry of our equine and human athletes.”

The three-level structure will extend the length of the paddock and walking ring and is planned for the area currently occupied by the Keeneland administrative building and jockeys' quarters. There will be a variety of ticketed experiences for the public, including dining, a bar area and a panoramic rooftop. The Paddock Building will include a reconfigured East Gate entrance that will align with Keeneland Boulevard while expanding the area inside the gates around the historic Sycamore tree. A new jockeys' quarters will be housed within the building, providing fans a unique experience in which jockeys will walk directly through the venue before each race.

“We spent a great deal of time looking at racing venues and sports facilities around the world for inspiration.” Arvin said. “We also talked to our stakeholders and fans to understand what they love most about spending a day at Keeneland, whether it be during racing, sales or another occasion.  Keeneland's fans are the best in the industry, and we know the demand for tickets is often greater than the supply. This new facility will allow us to provide a variety of unique experiences allowing more fans to enjoy the finest hospitality in sports.”

The new structures will remain true architecturally with the existing clubhouse and grandstand and feature the two-over-two pattern of stonework unique to Keeneland.

Keeneland is working with state and local government to secure incentive funds to support the project. Upon the recommendation of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, Keeneland on Wednesday received preliminary approval from the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority (KTDFA) for incentives to support the project totaling up to $23.2 million.

“Keeneland is a historic destination for our local families and travelers, and this exciting investment will create more opportunities for everyone to enjoy, while boosting our signature horse racing industry and Kentucky's $12.9 billion tourism industry,” said Gov. Andy Beshear. “The horse racing industry is as indispensable to our economy as it is to our culture, and after a record-breaking year for tourism in 2022, leaders like Keeneland are going to help ensure Kentucky's success continues for years to come.”

The global design firm Populous is serving as lead architect and is committed to focusing on integrating the beauty and traditions of Keeneland and the majesty and safety of the equine into its design.

“Keeneland is a national treasure and Populous is honored to support the emerging needs of horsemen and guests through these thoughtful design solutions while creating a new vantage point for future generations to enjoy all that Keeneland has to offer,” said Mason Paoli, Principal, Interior Design Director, Populous. “This project offers a unique opportunity to combine our deep background in the sports, entertainment and hospitality sectors to create these one-of-a-kind spaces for fans and patrons in reverence to the horse, further extending Keeneland's timeless mission and legacy in the sport.”

In addition to the new Paddock Building and improvements, Keeneland plans to make future announcements in furtherance of its mission to enhance racing and sales and the health and well-being of the horse.

“This exciting project will be the first in a number of enhancements to our trackside experience, sales facilities and the backstretch community,” said Arvin. “This is an investment in the advancement of Keeneland's mission: to strengthen our industry and the future of our sport for generations to come.”


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