When Colonial Downs opens in March 2019, it will have a new look, aimed at appealing to a wide range of audiences.
The track’s new owners hope to create a new sort of entertainment venue, one featuring historical horse racing in addition to live racing in fall 2019.
The new owners invited held a construction update tour last week and for the first time, showed off renderings of the new facility.
While the exterior will be mostly unchanged, the interior will have an industrial-modern look, with historical and feminine touches, according to project interior designer, Heather Robinson of Within Interior Design.
The first floor will focus on Rosie’s Gaming Emporium, a historical horse racing betting parlor with machines, an in-house bar and a restaurant.
The facility is being renovated by Richmond-based construction company W.M. Jordan with designs by Within.
Crews are tearing up old tile and fixtures, to make way for the facility’s new industrial look.
The five-level facility will feature historical horse racing parlor Rosie’s Gaming Emporium on the first floor, with additional, but fewer historical horse racing machines on the third floor.
The second floor will house executive offices; the third and fourth floors will have a la carte restaurants, seating and simulcast race wagering. The press box will be on the fifth floor.
The fourth floor will offer a higher-end experience, with 10 suites available for private, live-race viewing and events, according to Colonial Downs senior vice president and general manager John Marshall.
Outside, the turf track underwent a controlled burn in May to allow fresh grass to grow. The dirt track needs minor improvements and will take two weeks to fix, according to Marshall.
There will be two sections of live-racing track seating: one VIP area and one oriented more to tailgating and a relaxed experience.
“We are currently getting quotes for seating for 10,000 people,” Marshall said. “We are also getting quotes for our tote score board, to refresh and update it.”
The facility can hold 35,000 people, according to Marshall.
The neo-classical architecture outside will stand in contrast to the new industrial-look interior, according to Robinson.
“When you walk through the entrance you are going to see this 25 foot geometric horse structure — people will walk under it and it pays reverence to horse racing in Virginia,” according to Robinson.
Throughout the first floor there will be motifs of Rosie the Riveter and historic collages of women in the horse industry.
“There will be feminine and historic touches throughout,” Robinson said. “When I started the project they asked me to look at the design from the perspective of a woman patron and patrons who aren’t focused mainly on horse racing. We want to make this space welcoming for everyone.”
Hardwood, metal, matte black and bright red accents will refresh the facility’s look, although some of the existing structures, like duct-work on the ceiling, will be incorporated into the new design, according to Robinson.
Old horse figurines, accents and decorations from the facility’s former operation will be incorporated and used throughout as well, she said.
Historical Horse Racing and Rosie’s
Legislation making historical horse racing legal — a type of technology that lets players wager on previously contested horse races — was passed earlier this year by the General Assembly. Gov. Ralph Northam signed the bill into law in April.
Colonial Downs will have historical horse racing machines on the first floor in Rosie’s with additional machines on the third floor.
Rosie’s is Colonial Downs’ off-track betting and historical horse racing brand. Guests have to be 18 or older to visit a Rosie’s.
Officials hope to open four additional off-track betting facilities or Rosie’s within the next two years across the state, with Colonial Downs and Rosie’s opening first, according to Colonial Down’s spokesman Mark Hubbard.
The possible off-track betting sites depend on pending historical horse racing machine regulations by the Virginia Racing Commission. The commission will meet sometime next month.
“Work is happening at Colonial Downs,” Marshall said. “We are excited to invite the community back when we open and bring Thoroughbred horse racing back to Virginia.”
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