In the wake of the Rolling Stones' successful Sept. 29 concert at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., the home of the Kentucky Derby has forged an agreement with Philadelphia-based venue management firm SMG to pursue other concerts and special events to be held at the venue.

Churchill Downs occupies 147 acres of land and has a seating capacity of up to 52,000, including 77 luxury suites. The facility, where Thoroughbred racing and the Kentucky Derby have been conducted since 1875, also features a one-mile dirt oval and a seven-furlong turf course.

The Stones' A Bigger Bang tour was the first concert held under Churchill Downs Twin Spires. The show sold out at nearly 41,000 people, and grossed more than $5 million.

Mike Evans, senior VP of sports and entertainment for SMG, says his company and Churchill Downs learned from the Stones show that the facility "works" as a concert venue.

"It works for the artist and for the fans," Evans tells Billboard.biz. "But more importantly, the infield has all the infrastructure that is necessary for festivals and other types of shows. There's power, there's bathrooms, food stands, running water. All the things that people need that festivals typically have to import, they already have in place because they have 100,000 people in that infield for the Kentucky Derby."

Evans would not specify how many events SMG hoped to bring in annually to Churchill Downs. "We're going to show them opportunities, and things we're doing at Soldier Field (in Chicago), Reliant Park (in Houston, and McAfee Coliseum out in Oakland (Calif.), and if those things have interest to them, we'll take it to the next level."

Evans also indicated that SMG is open to taking a risk as a promoter or co-promoter for events at Churchill Downs. "In these modern times we're finding it more and more necessary to get involved on the financial side, and certainly at Churchill Downs we're prepared to do whatever is necessary to bring in an event that they find attractive and that makes financial sense for both the artist, the facility and for SMG," he says.

Interviewed backstage at the Rolling Stones show, Stones promoter Michael Cohl was high on Churchill Downs as a concert venue, saying load-in using "local talent" stagehands in conjunction with the Stones' veteran crew went smoothly.
"This was their first show and they performed like they'd done 100," Cohl told Billboard.biz at the time.