Sports Career Spotlight

We've been featuring executives from the sports industry since 2001. Naturally, some of these executives have moved onward and upward in their sports careers. We believe these profiles remain relevant and valuable because they highlight the hard work, dedication, brilliant successes, and lessons learned in a variety of career paths through the sports industry.

Kevin Flanery

Kevin Flanery, President

Churchill Downs Racetrack


After weathering a crisis, Churchill Downs president looks to future

Less than three weeks into Kevin Flanery’s new role as Churchill Downs president, heavy rain flooded the Louisville racetrack, museum and offices in early August. But Flanery took the reins, helping the track make a speedy recovery and getting things back to business as usual.

Age: 44
New title: President, Churchill Downs Racetrack, and senior vice president, Churchill Downs Inc.
Previous title: Senior vice president of national public affairs and communications, Churchill Downs Inc.
First job: Cutting grass for the grade school
College education: B.A. in psychology, Bellarmine College (1987) and a J.D., University of Kentucky College of Law (1990)
Resides: Louisville, Ky.
Grew up: Louisville, Ky.
Executive most admired: Abraham Lincoln
Brand most admired: NFL
Last book read: “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,” by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Last movie seen: “(500) Days of Summer”
Favorite movie: “To Kill a Mockingbird”
Favorite musician/band: Lyle Lovett

How is the flooding situation and has it set you back a bit in terms of the money needed for repairs and labor?
We had employees whose cars were completely underwater. The track was back up for training 48 hours later. Any time you have an event like this, it costs money.

The track tested night racing with Downs After Dark and brought in almost 90,000 fans over three dates.
Our intent with night racing was to create something new and exciting for the Louisville community outside of the [Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby races] that they could look forward to year-round, and we think we have found something that fits that bill. We are absolutely looking forward to duplicating that effort in the future.

In 2008, you headed the campaign to permit Florida’s Calder Race Course to operate slot machines. Recently the proposals to boost purses with video lottery terminals failed in the Kentucky Legislature. What is the next step?
In Kentucky, we will continue to educate legislators and the public about the fact that racing is a national business. In order to be competitive we have to have the same types of offerings for our customers that other tracks around the nation have.

What career advice do you have for people wanting into the sports industry?
If it is your passion, pursue it. Think about what the sport can be, not what it has been. We need creative thinkers to present the sport to the next generation.

What is one story you are continuing to watch in the sports world today?
The PGA Tour, with how they are reacting to the economy and reinvigorating their product with both the World Golf Championships and their season-ending tour championship.

This career spotlight is courtesy of the SportsBusiness Journal. CLICK HERE to visit their official website.

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