Arlington racetrack to close
Sep. 08, 1997
CHICAGO (AP) _ Arlington International Racecourse plans to close after this season, contending it has lost money for eight years because of competition from riverboat gambling casinos and other kinds of entertainment.
Arlington, one of the nation's more prominent tracks, will consider other uses for the property after the season. The track is home to three major races, the Arlington Million, with a purse of $1 million, the $500,000 Beverly D. and the $400,000 Secretariat.
Racecourse owner Richard Duchossois announced the move today on WGN radio's ``The Bob Collins Show.''
Duchossois had threatened to close the track in 1995 as he sought concessions _ such as permission to install slot machines _ from the state. He said riverboats and an array of other competition for the entertainment dollars of racing fans had cut deeply into profits.
The track is located in Arlington Heights, a suburb northwest of Chicago. Three Illinois riverboats _ in Elgin, Aurora and Joliet _ operate within 70 miles of the track. Three Indiana boats _ in Gary, Hammond and East Chicago _ also are within driving distance.
Duchossois relented in 1995 only after Gov. Jim Edgar agreed to form a task force to study the racing situation. Arlington spokesman Tony Rau said Duchossois was not immediately available for comment.
Rau said since the track reopened in 1989 following a 1985 fire, losses have totaled $60 million to $70 million.
The decision to close the track comes three weeks before a Sept. 26 meeting of the Illinois Racing Board to hand out racing dates for 1998.
Arlington had requested a thoroughbred season beginning the first week in May to be followed by a six-week harness-racing meet. The track will now withdraw its request.
Harness racing would have been new for Arlington and a possible option in recouping losses.
``We are just trying to throw the doors open and see if there are some solutions or alternatives for the industry to look at,'' Rau said.
He said cooperation was needed from the state and all segments of the industry for racing to become profitable at Arlington again.
Arlington Heights Village Manager Bill Dixon said village officials in the suburb were stunned when informed of Duchossois' announcement by telephone today.
Dixon said the track contributes about $1.4 million in revenue to the suburb annually and loss of that amount would have to be made up through cuts in services or a tax hike.