Ever been that fan who spent the day at the Kentucky Oaks or Kentucky Derby but never saw a horse? That won't be a problem starting with next year's races as Churchill Downs gets the "Big Picture."
Churchill Downs has teamed with Panasonic in a $12 million project to install a 15,224-square-foot, high-definition (HD) LED video board in time for the 2014 Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby.
The video board will be installed about midway along the backstretch and outside the dirt course of the historic track. This position maximizes the 170-degree viewing angle for fans in the 55,638 clubhouse and grandstand seats and the tens of thousands of fans in the track's famous 26-acre infield.
The bottom edge of the 171-foot wide video board will be 80 feet above the ground and will top out at 170 feet in height making it the largest high definition video board currently constructed anywhere in the world. The video board and supporting steel structure will weigh over 1,000,000 pounds and must be capable of withstanding winds of up to 85 miles per hour.
Safety of jockeys and horses have been paramount in the design and engineering of this project with the location, height, overall size and actual video board LED design all focused on avoiding disruptions to the conduct of a race.
So, just how big is the "Big Board"? It's bigger than:
• 3 NBA basketball courts,
• 5 average size U.S. homes,
• 2,200 46-inch flat-screen TVs, and
• 320,000 Apple iPhone 5 screens
The software and equipment that will control the Big Board will allow for multiple split-screen presentations of video, images, data and innovative live and recorded programming. Churchill Downs also will add full-1080i fixed and mobile HD cameras and a new audio system to deliver state-of-the-art picture and sound quality to its fans.
"Since 2005 we have invested over $160 million in improving our fans' experience," said Kevin Flanery, president of Churchill Downs. "Along with our current $15 million Grandstand Terrace project we are investing over $27 million this year to make Churchill Downs not only the best venue for Thoroughbred racing's biggest events, the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby, but one of the premier sports and entertainment venues anywhere in the world."
"We are thrilled to have this opportunity to work with Churchill Downs to bring true 21st Century video technology to the 140th Kentucky Derby, the longest continuously conducted sporting event in the country," said Richard Ballard, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Panasonic Eco Solutions North America.
Preliminary design and engineering work are already underway. Installation work will begin in December and completed during the January 1 to mid-March period when the track is closed to training and no horses are stabled on the track's grounds. Current plans are to unveil the Big Board to the public at Opening Night of Derby Week on April 26, 2014, in a dazzling nighttime display of the Big Board's technological capabilities.