It was supposed to be a ground breaking ceremony. It turned into an “earth shaking” announcement.

You know the drill, although one of those could have come in handy on Wednesday morning, what with the cold ground that made shovels obsolete. A few dignitaries get together. Someone hands them a bright, shiny, silver spaded shovel. And, on cue, they all pretend to be Jed Clampett, and search for a little Texas tea.

(For those too young to have ever watched the Beverly Hillbillies, “Texas Tea” is an ever-flowing, cash crop known as crude oil.)

The only problem on Wednesday is that the dignitaries — of which there were plenty on hand to both participate and watch — had to move to higher ground to avoid the “Big Shovels” of heavy construction equipment operating in the background, and had to shout over the roar of bulldozers, back hoes, and earth movers.

So, instead of simply breaking ground, which had already been done, Churchill Downs’ Chief Executive  Officer Bill Carstanjen and his team of true professionals turned a simple, boring “ground breaking” into a truly exciting “earth shaking” project. On Wednesday, Churchill Downs announced Derby City Gaming — a $60 Million Dollar, state-of-the-art, 85,000-square foot historical racing machine venue that is certainly going to set the standard for all such operations in Kentucky and across the country.

The new metroplex will be located at 4520 Poplar Level Road in Louisville, on the same grounds that was known as the Sports Spectrum, and, before that, the Louisville Downs.

Derby City Gaming will be the only facility of its kind in Louisville and an entertainment destination for locals and visitors alike. The facility will house two quick-service, walk-up food venues, as well as a bar with seating for 50 and large format televisions for guests to take in all the best sporting action year-round.

The gaming area will open with 600 cutting-edge historical racing machines, a simulcast wagering area and a player’s club reward center offering special perks and benefits, including an exclusive parking area for VIP players.

(Kevin Flanery)

“Churchill Downs is proud to have been part of the Louisville community for more than 140 years, and we are excited about our continued growth in this great city. We are moving full speed ahead to develop and open Derby City Gaming, an innovative new facility which pays homage to the place we call home,” Churchill Downs Racetrack president Kevin Flanery said. “The logo, which features the Kentucky Derby icon mark of a horseshoe and rose, reflects the tremendous impact this project will have on Kentucky’s signature horse racing industry. Bringing historical racing to Louisville is critical to keeping the Kentucky racing circuit competitive through larger purses and greater incentives for owners, breeders and trainers.”

Historic races is an automated, fully pari-mutuel wagering game that features video clips of previously run races. It enables customers to watch, wager and enjoy both the experience of gaming, horse racing. Some of the proceeds from this form of wagering are utilized to increase purses and other incentives for the production of live racing.

These types of gaming operations already exist in Lexington, in a joint venture between Keeneland and the standardbred track, The Red Mile, and in Franklin, Ky. at Kentucky Downs. Both of those ventures have proven to be highly successful in attracting new customers to the racetrack and to live racing.

(Dale Romans)

Thoroughbred trainer Dale Romans, who is now the winningest trainer in the history of Churchill Downs, was on location to help celebrate the new venture. In typical Romans’ style, he applauded the efforts of his home track to improve Thoroughbred racing in the Commonwealth.

“Churchill Downs’ investment in historical racing in Louisville is helping to create a better, stronger future for Kentucky’s equine industry. The revenue generated by Derby City Gaming will fund purses that are significantly higher than ever before,” Romans said. “A win for horse racing is a win for all of Kentucky.”

(Mayor Greg Fischer)

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer was one of the keynote speakers and he gushed about the contributions that Churchill Downs has done in the past, and continue to do to help improve the City of Louisville.

“It is not easy to be the host of the world’s most important and renown sporting event,” said Fischer, in his comments on Wednesday. “On the first Saturday in May, of every year, the world turns to Churchill Downs and the City of Louisville for the most important sports event in the country; in the entire world, for that matter. And, they do it every year in style.

“It means millions to the economy of Louisville and the Commonwealth of Kentucky, as a whole. To be honest, one cannot even calculate the true economic value it means. But Churchill Downs never stops trying to improve on that, and never stops reinvesting in this community. This project that we are announcing today is just another example of the amazing contributions that Churchill Downs has done for this city and this state.”

Derby City Gaming will create an estimated 400 new jobs for the local economy, including 250 construction jobs and 150 full- and part-time jobs to operate and manage the facility. Churchill Downs will hire both hourly and salaried employees in areas including operations, marketing, finance, food and beverage, maintenance, information technology, human resources, security and administration.

“At this time, historical racing is the most effective way to supplement purses and rebuild the Kentucky racing circuit to keep us competitive with other states,” Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association chairman, Kentucky Horse Racing Commission member and longtime local horse owner Dr. David (“Doc”) Richardson said. “As Churchill Downs moves forward with Derby City Gaming, I’m hopeful my fellow racing commission members and others will join me in recognizing the new life historical racing can bring to our industry.”

Flanery agreed.

“Our focus on historical racing is driven by our commitment to bringing much-needed innovation to our industry, not just here in Louisville but throughout the state, and we’re doing this through initiatives like Derby City Gaming,” added Flanery. “The future is bright for horse racing in Kentucky, and Churchill Downs is excited to play an important role in that evolution.”