Colonnade Venu+ solves a 30-year-old capacity problem to help bring the Breeders’ Cup World Championships to the Keeneland Race Course.
The Breeder’s Cup was dreamed of and conceived in Lexington, Kentucky by a group of prominent thoroughbred breeders who wanted to create an event for horses and fans from across the world to come together not only to celebrate the very best of horse racing, but also to settle the annual question of who the best really was. The first race was held in 1984, but not in Lexington, and for the next 30 years, the Breeder’s Cup was held at racecourses from Florida to Toronto, and from California to New York, and even down the road in Louisville, but never in its founding city.
To finally bring the race to Keeneland, organizers were willing to use a smaller track and the historic facility, but they could not sacrifice capacity. This is where Colonnade came in to help. With only 38,000 seats at historic Keeneland there were far less seats than at other tracks where the Breeder’s Cup typically ran. Breeder’s Cup organizers brought in Colonnade to increase Keeneland’s capacity to 45,000.
By race day, the Colonnade team had converted the clubhouse parking lot along the homestretch into rows of chalets with walk-out access to the course’s railing. Most were two stories, but one at the end with excellent views of the track became three. Accompanying the trackside chalets was the Maker’s Mark Bourbon Lounge, a 3,200-person structure with rail access and an additional chalet overlooking the paddock where horses paraded prior to the races.
“The demand for additional capacity in premium hospitality coupled with limited locations for structures led us to explore adding a third story to one of the hospitality structures,” explains John Turner, Colonnade’s Chief Revenue Officer. “Bill Thomason, President and CEO of Keeneland, had experienced hospitality in such a venue at The Derby in England and we embraced the challenge of bringing the same to Keeneland for the 2015 Breeders’ Cup. The result was the first triple deck hospitality structure in North America. It was exciting to see such a unique solution come together for our clients at Breeders’ Cup and Keeneland.”
The Colonnade team operated as a project manager, taking into account the racecourse’s existing capacity and weighing that against the client’s desired number of premium seating spaces. “When we develop a site plan, we look at every aspect of the fan experience – from sightlines to where the bathrooms are to how food service flows through the spaces,” said Colonnade Event Director Keith Butler. “Whatever we need to do to best accommodate the fans, we do it.”
On the other hand, Venu+ also played the role of on-site construction manager. “We make sure everything is in the right place,” continues Butler. “This includes bringing in power, HVAC, cabling for audio and video, all of which are behind the scenes. But we also handle décor to make sure what the guest experiences is top-of-the-line.”
For that matter, when you enter any Colonnade Venu+ crafted facility – whether it’s at Keeneland in Kentucky or Santa Anita and Del Mar in California or at the NCAA Final Four – the event’s premium seating areas are exactly that: premium, even if they are just temporary.
Going back to the triple-decker at Keeneland, Butler adds, “A lot went into adding that third level. Running power and bringing in new décor is one thing, but you also have to consider getting guests, and servers, and food, up and down three levels. It’s a big challenge, but we’re always up for it.”
About Colonnade Group
Colonnade Group is a Birmingham, AL-based company that engineers exceptional experiences to elevate every fan’s game day. The company was founded in 1992 by CEO Robbie Robertson to fill a gap in event management expertise by providing comprehensive logistical solutions in the areas of premium seating, temporary structures, corporate hospitality and sales, fan experiences and customized solutions. Clients include more than a dozen Division I Universities, the nation’s largest collegiate athletic conferences, the NCAA, the College Football Playoff, and a wide-range of corporations. For more information, visit ColonnadeGroup.com