140 years: That’s how long Louisville’s Churchill Downs racetrack has been in business, and how many years it has been
home to the venerable Kentucky Derby. But one annual horse race won’t pay the bills: This is why Churchill Downs is
an active racetrack that hosts races throughout the year.
In doing so, Churchill Downs has to compete with every entertainment option clamoring for consumer’ money. This is
why the track has spent $150 million since 2001 to update and expand its facilities. Recently, Churchill Downs spent $14.5
million on its Grandstand Terrace and Rooftop Expansion project, with centralized monitor control being an important
part of this upgrade.
OPEN AIR GETS MORE ACCESS
The Grandstand Terrace expansion added second and
third floor seating, dining, wagering and restroom
facilities to a formerly flat section of the track; located
to the left of the main Grandstand stretching from the
course’s final turn to the homestretch.
|The Rooftop Gardens at Churchill Downs outfitted with 12 SunbrightTV 4660HD
46” TV’s provide patrons with live HD racing video, betting odds information, food
menus, and signage for special events. Contemporary Research RF tuners receive
content at each TV from the RF-IP head-end system.
“This open air space holds the ‘economy seats’ at
Churchill Downs,” said Erin Shannon, CompView’s
audio video designer. (CompView is a Portland,
Oregon, system design and integration firm that won
the AV contract for the Grandstand Terrace expansion.
Shannon is the expert who designed and oversaw the
“The Grandstand Terrace expansion adds second
and third-level space to the rear of the economy seats,
adding 2,400 elevated and shaded seats to this part of
the track complex,” Shannon said.
Because it connects to the existing Grandstand
Terrace, the expansion provides more than 20,000
reserved seating guests with access to more washrooms,
food and beverage stations, and wagering windows. The additional seats bring Churchill Down’s
total seating capacity to 55,638, while the facilities
upgrades provides a better race day experience for all
ADDING CONTROL TO THE
Racing information is critically important at Churchill
Downs—to tell the fans which races are coming up,
what odds each race’s horses have to offer, and directing
gamblers to wagering windows to place their bets.
“The current race track is home to thousands of TV
monitors as a result,” said Shannon. “Some are old
CRT models; others are modern.”
The 69 new outdoor monitors installed in the Grandstand Terrace’s Rooftop Expansion are
SunBriteTV LCD monitors of varying sizes; all of
which are designed to display clear visuals despite
extremes in outdoor lighting and weather conditions.
All of them are connected to a Contemporary Research
display control system, which runs over Churchill
Down’s existing in-house coaxial cable RF network.
The installation includes 67 Contemporary Research
ICC1-232 Controllers, two Contemporary Research
ICC2-ATSC+ Tuner/Controllers, a Contemporary
Research ICE-HE Ethernet Head End, and one
Contemporary Research SSV-DX Display Express PC.
Adding control capability to Churchill Downs’
coaxial cable network, starting with the 69 SunBriteTV
monitors in the Grandstand Terrace Rooftop
Expansion, is the first step in bringing the track’s entire
video display system into the 21st century.
“Churchill Downs’ coax network was built without
installing a master control system for all of the
displays,” said Shannon. “This means you cannot
address monitors from a central location to tune to
specific channels on an individual basis. You also
have to manage their volume and other features
manually right at the displays themselves. In a place
with thousands of displays, this is a Herculean task!”
Erin Shannon opted not to perpetuate this historical
shortfall in the Grandstand Terrace Rooftop
Expansion. Quite the opposite: “I wanted the design
of the Rooftop Expansion addition to this historic
facility to include global controls that could expand to
the entire campus when desired,” he said.
|Moving through the courtyard from Gate 1 to the Rooftop
Gardens, patrons can see and hear all of the action on
SunbrightTV SB-5565HD 55-inch TVs and Community
CS8-W speakers. The Contemporary Research RF controller
is installed inside an all-weather junction box behind the
This said, CompView did not want to saddle
Churchill Downs with the need to install a separate
wired network to provide centralized monitor control.
This is why Erin Shannon selected a Contemporary
Research (CR) control system, because its signals can
be sent to the company’s addressable controllers over
the existing coax network, with each monitor plugging
into its own CR control box.
“The main reason for selecting Contemporary
Research for the Churchill Downs project is the CR
solution matched the campus requirements with a big
functional upgrade—control,” Shannon explained.
“Adding control for multiple displays through any
other third party controller would cost more and
require specialty cabling to each display. CR works on
the cable TV wire that is already there.”
Operating over Churchill Downs’ existing coax
network made the CR control system relatively
straightforward to install and configure. Yet the level
of control supplied to the race track’s AV staff is substantial,
at least in the Grandstand Terrace Rooftop Expansion.
“Using the CR control system over the existing RF
cabling infrastructure, all the rooftop displays are controllable
through a single PC,” said Shannon. “The
staff can turn them all off and on, and select channels.
This can be done on all rooftop displays, a single
display or a group of displays; for example turning on
all displays at the concessions and tuning them to the
menu signage channel.”
In contrast, most of the other existing displays
require someone to walk around
with a remote control to turn
them on and select the proper
channel. The good news is that
these displays can be provided
with centralized control capability
by connecting addressable
CR boxes between them and the
coax network. In this way, Churchill
Downs has the option of upgrading its
entire video display operations to centralized control
“The CR system central display control can be
rolled out to every location that currently has a TV,”
Shannon said. “The CR system is extremely easy to
scale up and does not require a new cable infrastructure
to be installed through the multiple buildings
that make up Churchill Downs.
Nor does it require a third party programmer
or software company to set up: Our lead technician
programmed the PC-based central control system.”
Today, the 69 outdoor SunBriteTVs in the Rooftop
Expansion area are allowing Churchill Downs’ AV
technicians to manage them all from a single PC, a
capability that—with any luck—will be expanded to
the track’s entire video display plant.
“Overall the CR solution was
a perfect fit for the Churchill
Downs Rooftop Expansion
project,” Erin Shannon
concluded. “It is a great
way to add control
capability over an existing
coax network, without
any extra wiring
James Careless is a
regular contributor to AV
• Sixty-nine SunBriteTV LCD outdoor monitors
(varying sizes), designed to display clear
visuals despite extremes in outdoor lighting
and weather conditions
• Contemporary Research display control
system runs over Churchill Down’s existing
in-house coaxial cable RF network
• Sixty-seven Contemporary Research ICC1-
• Two Contemporary Research ICC2-ATSC+
Tuners for Display Expresses
• Sixty-nine Contemporary Research CCCOMB
• One Contemporary Research ICE-HE Ethernet
• One Contemporary Research SSV-DX Display