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Columnist
Arlington sees hope even in this economy
By Barry Rozner | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 4/30/200 12:01 AM

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The first Party in the Park is only a day away.

Do you know where your Local Oval is?

Arlington Park president Roy Arnold believes you do, and is hopeful the current economic state won't preclude a successful summer meet.

"We know it's hard for a lot of people right now. We also know we have an affordable and entertaining product," Arnold said as he prepared for Friday's opening. "We're optimistic.

"Some tracks are doing better than last year, and I think a lot has to do with people staying closer to home, and they recognize it's an affordable ticket, especially relative to the other sports.

"Families looking for someplace to come together, spend the day, bring their own picnic, ride the ponies, and enjoy racing, can do all that for an affordable price."

Arnold may not be whistling past the graveyard when he speaks of the summer of 2009.

"We're seeing online ticket buying up considerably, and the deals are better if you buy online," Arnold said. "We've also made the product better, we've improved the facility, and our customer service will be better than it's ever been."

Arlington is doing a lot to improve the racing and the purses for horsemen, offering a tiered structure to encourage bigger fields and better cards.

Whatever the published amount, if the field fills with 10 horses, Arlington adds 2.5 percent to the purse. If there are 12 or more, there's a 5 percent addition.

Other highlights for 2009:

• On Friday July 3, Arlington will run a late program (4 p.m. post) that takes racing until dusk, right up to the popular fireworks display that follows. Tickets are only $3 at arlingtonpark.com.

• While we can't quite picture Dick Duchossois twittering, blogging or facebooking, Arlington is using them all and launching arlingtonparklive.com. On that site, fans can use an electronic invite to organize a party or simply let friends and family know when they're going to the track, and invite them all to join in the festivities.

• Arlington has improved the quality and fields for the International Festival of Racing, Prairie State Festival, American 1000 Guineas Festival, and has offered a $500,000 bonus to any horse sweeping the Mid-America Triple.

Any horse on Million Preview Day in a qualifying race that finishes in the top three will have their entry and starting fees waived on Million Day, encouraging horsemen to return for that day and keep the card full.

"We recognize people have a choice and are going to be careful about where they spend their dollars,'' Arnold said, "and we want them to get great service and great value for their dollar."

Drop the gloves

There's at least one more game left and you have to think Brad Miller's going to return the favor Thursday for that punch to the face he got Tuesday night.

You have to feel for the big fella after he missed a free throw with water in his eyes and blood in his mouth, given that he is usually a good free throw shooter and solid in the clutch.

Should it have been flagrant? Certainly. Then again, the Bulls didn't have to give away a 10-point lead with 7 minutes left in regulation.

Bull stuff

Regardless of the outcome, and aware the quality is not quite championship worthy, you have to admit this Bulls-Celtics series is one of the most interesting you'll ever see.

All over again

Anyone have déjà vu watching Kirk Hinrich stand out on top, dribbling out the shot clock in overtime Tuesday night?

Ivan Boldirev-ing

Was there a bigger play in the Calgary series than Martin Havlat scoring late in Game 1 to tie it and send it to OT?

The Hawks looked timid and had done little offensively leading up to that play, which began when the puck hit a couple skates and bounced right to Havlat.

If he doesn't score and they lose Game 1 at home in regulation, it might have been a different series.

Just asking

Where has this Dustin Byfuglien been the last two years? Is this more Coach Q. magic, or just an aberration?

Just thinking

An old friend asked Wednesday if I've changed my opinion on whether the Hawks should moved Nikolai Khabibulin and Martin Havlat before the deadline.

I have not.

I understand why they kept them, and I don't blame the Hawks for wanting to win a series or two. It's a tough call, but there's also the matter of asset management. If you can't win it all, you need to carefully manage the cap and your assets with an eye toward the future.

The way they've played, fans are going to demand the Hawks re-sign both veteran free agents. In order to do that, you'd have to move a ton of salary and some other popular players.

The quote

Boston coach Doc Rivers: "Last year was last year. That's gone and we ain't getting that back."

Best headline

Sportspickle.com: "College player decides to declare early for draft halfway through calculus final."

And finally-

Phil Esposito, on XM Radio's NHL Channel: "Players are so sensitive today. They cry if someone mentions their mother or their heritage. Are you fricken' kidding me? I'm Italian, and if I had a dime for every time I was called a (bleeping bleep), I could have bought the Lightning without the Japanese."

brozner@dailyherald.com