Inspired: Building Churchill Downs

Creating a successful racetrack is a unique challenge. Unlike other kinds of public sporting arenas, racetracks are required to provide so much more than mere locker rooms, concessions, conveniences, and spectator seating. At the most basic level, a racetrack is expected to cater to two kinds of athletes: to jockeys, but also to herds of temperamental, expensive, thousand-pound Thoroughbred racehorses. These equine athletes require extensive, specialized backside facilities for care and training, as well as do their hundreds of caretakers—trainers, exercise riders, hotwalkers, grooms, farriers, and veterinarians.

Besides frontside operational necessities like pari-mutuel betting windows, paddocks, greenhouses, and the sprawling oval track itself, racetracks must also provide safe, comfortable, convenient, and entertaining environments for fans to place bets, eat and drink, socialize, and generally enjoy America's oldest pastime.

For 150 years, Churchill Downs has sewn a complex mish-mash of architectural styles into its patchwork of structures and grounds. The resulting 147 acres tells a compelling visual story of an organization trying to strike a balance between the practical demands of the evolving sport and a desire to create a memorable landmark within for the city of Louisville.