KY Downs embarking on $25 million expansion

Jennie Rees

FRANKLIN, Ky. (Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019) — With preliminary approval from the Franklin-Simpson Planning and Zoning Commission, Kentucky Downs this fall will embark on its largest construction project since the track opened in 1990.

The first of three phases will add 18,000 square feet with an estimated investment of approximately $25 million. The new building will feature more gaming as well as more food, beverage and entertainment options.

Construction is expected to begin in the next few weeks, with the first phase scheduled for completion before the 2020 live race meet begins in early September. The existing building will undergo its own dramatic renovation during the expansion, including transforming part of the current gaming floor into restaurants and other food and beverage outlets.

The combined expansion and renovation will nearly double the gaming operation, housing 1,200 Historical Horse Racing (HHR) gaming terminals. Kentucky Downs currently has 753 HHR terminals.

The anticipated second and third phases remain in the early planning stages but will be designed to greatly broaden the range of guest experiences and facilities Kentucky Downs offers.

“We are looking forward to the expansion and renovation to our existing facility,” said Kentucky Downs’ Director of Marketing John Wholihan. “It just demonstrates the new owners’ commitment to making Kentucky Downs a prominent regional destination. We want everyone to know us as a go-to stop year-round for gaming and entertainment in addition to our famous September live horse racing.

“The expansion will only enhance Kentucky Downs’ role as an economic engine for the Franklin-Simpson area and beyond. Just the first phase is expected to add more jobs to our workforce of 300.”

Kentucky Downs LLC, a new company and partnership headed by prominent Nevada entrepreneurs Ron Winchell and Marc Falcone, purchased Kentucky Downs earlier this year from the investment group that bought the race track in 2007.

Kentucky Downs last month concluded another record-setting race meet, with a total of $41,239,699 wagered on the five-day session’s 50 races. A record $11,520,380 was paid out to participating horse owners, with the $2.3 million in average daily purses the highest in the world outside Japan. Kentucky Downs, in an arrangement with its horsemen, transferred an additional $5 million in purses to Ellis Park to strengthen the racing product at the Henderson track and the entire Kentucky circuit.

Asked about the upcoming expansion and renovation, Winchell said on the 2019 race meet’s closing day that the goal is to “make it bigger and better pretty much all the way around, whether it’s the main building, the racing, everything.”