When the Breeders' Cup World Championships returns to Santa Anita Park Nov. 1-2, several key areas of the grandstand will sport new, updated looks, including the Chandelier Room in the turf club. It is part of a $15 million renovation spurred by Keith Brackpool with the goal of making the on-track experience one that people will want to repeat.
Brackpool is chairman of California operations for the Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita. He spoke to a group of reporters at Santa Anita Sept. 24 before leading them on a tour of the renovated areas, some of which will not be finished until the Breeders' Cup.
"Racing has done a fairly good job in California over the last 20 years of getting people to the races for the first time," Brackpool said. "We've done an appalling job of getting them to come for a second time, and we have to change that."
To that end, Brackpool based the renovations on what he termed a celebration of the audio-visual experience of the sport. Santa Anita's construction team opened up several rooms with balconies overlooking the track and other areas where patrons can see the horses live. Inside several of the rooms, state-of-the-art television panels take up entire walls and can show everything from a huge version of the live running of a race to every sort of race replay, races from other tracks, and other sporting events.
The Chandelier Room, formerly a dark area with no natural light, now has a balcony at the top of the two staircases. The inside balcony overlooks the room, and glass doors lead to an outdoor area that overlooks the track. The large mirrors over the bar catch the view of the San Gabriel Mountains that come through the balcony doors.
The room that adjoined the turf club at the top of the stairs has been turned into a sports book-type area with the addition of large television screens that cover two of the walls. The back area of that room has been opened up with a balcony that overlooks the path from the paddock to the tunnel so that patrons can watch the horses make their way toward the track.
The track mezzanine has been gutted and replaced with all-new fittings. These include a horseshoe bar and several long tables with lights, where people can stand, with space to spread out their programs, analysis sheets, and past performance records. Brackpool pointed out that the food choices in this area have been expanded to include a salad bar, a juice bar, and a wide selection of craft beer and wine. Another huge television screen sits on the wall opposite the bar.
The balcony in the director's room has been extended to provide a better view, and the turf club tables have undergone a redesign. The Arcadia Suite at the east end of the grandstand has been renamed the Eddie Logan Suite for the ubiquitous shoeshine man who worked in some capacity at Santa Anita from the track's opening in 1934 until he died in 2009. Also completely redesigned, the suite has an open-air balcony with a stellar view of the clubhouse turn.
In addition, the entire outside of the grandstand has been repainted in the same Santa Anita green, though it looks slightly darker because the old paint had faded.
Brackpool said that work began July 8 and that some of the areas will not be ready for the opening of the fall meeting Sept. 27.
"We have a million square feet here," said Brackpool. "There was no way we could renovate a million square feet. The question was how do we make this place alive again and how do we attract the live audience."