LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - All eyes have been on NCAA basketball lately and the national champion Louisville Cardinals. Now that basketball is over, it's beginning to look a lot like Derby around town.
Whether it's at Churchill Downs or multiple locations around Louisville for Derby Festival events like Thunder Over Louisville, final preparations are underway for two of the most exciting weeks the city has to offer.
"We're three weeks out of Kentucky Derby 139," said Darren Rogers, Churchill Downs Senior Director for Communications & Media Services," and a lot is going on around here."
It's Louisville's biggest time to shine and that means Churchill Downs is getting its annual Derby facelift. This year, the new exclusive Mansion on the 6th floor is the track's big ticket item for big rollers and the newly created Section 110 seating is also going in putting stadium seats in the first turn.
"It's a great spot when the horses walk over on Derby Day," Rogers said of the stadium seating.
Those Derby goers also have a head-on view of the stretch and a JumboTron. Some of those seats are still available for $798 in covered areas and the price includes both Oaks and Derby days and includes food and beverage service. For seats not under cover, it's $100 less.
Speaking of cover, those personal and pop-up tents people take into the infield are no longer allowed due to last year's rain and wind gusts.
"In light of the first evacuation in the history of Churchill Downs on Oaks and Derby, we took a hard look at how that evacuation went," Rogers said, "it went very smoothly and we came away lucky."
Infield guests walked away muddy, but unscathed. Law enforcement recommended getting rid of tents for safety reasons.
Across town, the tents are up - the familiar white ones at the always fabulous Barnstable-Brown party.
As for the official kick-off of the Derby Festival? "A week from now, we'll be hearing planes out there practicing for Thunder Over Louisville," said Mike Berry, Kentucky Derby Festival CEO and President.
Berry and everyone with the Kentucky Derby Festival are up to their ears in final planning.
It's near capacity of 18,000 runners for the 41st addition of the Mini Marathon and Marathon, there's the Balloon Race, the Pegasus Parade with the men and women's Cards as grand marshals and more basketball with the Derby Festival Basketball Classic at Freedom Hall April 19.
"Friday night at the Fairgrounds you will see the best high school recruits in the country including next year's freshman class from IU, UofL and UK," Berry said.
There's also a new Craft Beer Fest that will be happening around The Great Steamboat Race. For all the Kentucky Derby Festival events and information on Oaks and Derby tickets for those stadium seats and general admission go to our Digital Derby Guide on wave3.com.
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