There were interesting developments Oct. 7, with Churchill Downs announcing plans for the "big board" for Oaks and Derby days, and enlightening presentations at the International Simulcast Conference on the importance of the on-site experience at sporting events.
Churchill made the announcement during the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities meeting in France, but followed up with a press release. It's somewhat comical it came out less than a month before the Breeders' Cup World Championships, which will be held at Santa Anita Park Nov. 1-2.
No racetrack has spent more on facility upgrades in recent years than Churchill, which last hosted the Breeders' Cup in 2011. Whether it was truly in the running for 2014 is a well-kept secret, but in any event the decision to go to Santa Anita for an unprecedented third consecutive year next year voided a Kentucky General Assembly tax break for Breeders' Cup.
The opening discussion at the simulcast conference, held in Lexington this year, centered on the importance of the customer experience, particularly blending on-site amenities with technology. The message was simple: Live up to the standards expected by your customers, who in many cases pay a fortune for tickets, food and beverages, merchandise–and the social experience.
Aside from the "wow" factor of installing an HD video board the size of three NBA basketball courts, Churchill addressed a serious issue. People on the ground or lower levels of its facility can't see the backstretch during the Oaks, Derby, and under-card races. So not only does Churchill provide a service, it no doubt will get additional interest from those who may just want to see "the board."
So if Churchill and Breeders' Cup had a better relationship–and hopefully they will in the future, because it's a no-brainer for the business–would we get to see a Breeders' Cup Big Board?