It’s post time for the Churchill Downs mobile app.

The horse racing venue, which annually hosts the Kentucky Derby, debuted its mobile app at the beginning of the season April 30.

The free Android and iOS app allows attendees to order food and drinks for delivery to their seats, purchase general admission tickets, navigate to their seats and read profiles of the competing horses.

For the navigation component of the app, Churchill Downs deployed 1,600 beacons around the racetrack. Beacons are small wireless transmitters that can detect nearby smartphones. Attendees can use the in-app map to find their seats, betting windows or concessions. Since beacons can sense where an attendee is, the app can provide the consumer with directions to her desired destination. A consumer can also “Pin My Car” on the in-app map so she can easily find her car later on.

“We have lots of signage, but there are lots of different buildings and signs, and it can be hard to find your way around,” says Ryan Jordan, Churchill Downs general manager.


Churchill Downs worked with mobile technology vendor VenueNext to build the app and deploy the beacons. On average it takes VenueNext about three to four months to build and deploy an app, a VenueNext spokeswoman says. VenueNext has completed several large-scale entertainment venue beacon and app deployments, including Levi’s Stadium, where the National Football League’s San Francisco 49er’s play; Amway Center, home of the Orlando Magic of the National Basketball Association; and U.S. Bank Stadium, home of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings.

One of the transactional features in the app allows attendees to order food and drinks and have them delivered to their seats. An attendee enters her seat location and the app will provide the guest with an estimated wait time. Consumers pay in app.

Consumers can also order and pay for food and drinks in the app and pick it up themselves at a concession stand in an express line.  The app tells a consumer her distance from a pickup location and the concession items available at each location.

The free app also provides a trove of content for attendees including videos, information on previous races, horse racing traditions, betting how-tos and Kentucky Derby flashbacks.


The digital tickets in the app use QR codes and Churchill Downs did not need any additional hardware for the mobile tickets to work, says a VenueNext spokesperson.

Churchill Downs is promoting the app via emails to its ticket buyers and fan base, social media, on-site signs, and promotional messaging, the spokesperson says.

Churchill Downs did not disclose app use metrics. However, VenueNext says that 70% of season ticket holders at Levi’s Stadium use the stadium’s app, as do 80% of Orlando Magic season ticket holders.

In the future, Churchill Downs hopes to integrate offsite betting into the app, the VenueNext spokesperson says.