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Arlington Park reopens after $5 mil in winter upgrades
By Ashok Selvam | Daily Herald Staff

Arlington Park officials added these new digital menu signs above the food stands to make the park look more modern.

 

Bills Zars | Staff Photographer

An Arlington Park worker applies final touches to a new seating area in anticipation of Opening Day on Thursday.

 

Bills Zars | Staff Photographer

Longshots Sports Bar opens Thursday, featuring these high-definition TVs in hopes of keeping fans at the track watching the Cubs and Sox even after the last race.

 

Bills Zars | Staff Photographer

Work continues at Arlington Park in anticipation of Thursday's first day of racing.

 

Bills Zars | Staff Photographer

A tractor conditions the polytrack at Arlington Park which was inverted over the winter. "It is like rotating your tires," said track spokesman David Zenner.

 

Bills Zars | Staff Photographer

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Published: 4/28/2010 11:56 AM | Updated: 4/28/2010 12:56 PM

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And they're off!

What: Arlington Park opens its thoroughbred racing season.

When: 11:15 a.m. Thursday gates open, with racing at 1 p.m.

Season: 91 racing days through Sept. 26.

Live racing: Thursday through Sunday.

No racing: Monday-Wednesday except for three Mondays: May 31, July 5 and Sept. 6.

Post times: 1 p.m. Thursdays and Sundays, 3 p.m. Fridays (2 p.m. Fridays in September). Saturday posts vary from 12:15 p.m. to 1 p.m. except for 4 p.m. post July 3.

Admission: $4 online or $6 at the gate on Thursdays; $6-$8 weekends; $8-$10 on Kentucky Derby Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day and July 3. Seniors $4 on Thursdays.

Parking: Free, but $5 preferred and $10 valet also.

Programs: $3-$4.50

Special dates

• Kentucky Derby, May 1

• Preakness Stakes, May 15

• Belmont Stakes, June 5

• Prairie State fest, June 19

• Fiesta in the Park, July 11

• Arlington Million, Beverly D and Secretariat races, Aug. 21

On the Web: arlingtonpark.com; arlingtonparklive.com

More Coverage

Workers galloped around Arlington Park this week, applying final touches as they geared up for the season's first day of racing on Thursday.

"I feel the same way about Opening Day as I used to feel as a Marine expeditionary unit commander," track President Roy Arnold said. "You teach, you train, you plan, you coach. But then you have to get out of the way and let the team execute; if you've done your job - whether Opening Day or reinforcing an embassy - the team will get the job done."

The season's action kicks off 1 p.m. Thursday, marking the start of a four-day race weekend highlighted by Saturday's Kentucky Derby. Arlington officials tout their Derby-watching party as the largest outside of Kentucky. Arnold expects 25,000 to 30,000 fans if the weather cooperates.

"And you can bet on the Derby here," reminded track spokesman David Zenner.

Officials spent $1 million on upgrading the track's video system, Arnold said. They've gone digital, as cameras are now 100 percent high definition. The track purchased wireless and robotic cameras to give fans clearer images closer to the horses. New widescreen televisions will also give the track more screen space to add information useful to bettors.

"It's going to allow us to better capture the energy and drama of the sport," Arnold said. More than 100 high-definition televisions are installed around the park.

The new Longshots Sports Bar will stay open after the day's last race, serving food and drink, and helping fans keep up with the Cubs and White Sox.

"Longshots Sports Bar is targeted at our great Chicago sports fans," Arnold said. The bar has digital signage, which is being adopted around the track. "Digital signage will allow us to be much more flexible and responsive to our customers," he said.

Arnold and Zenner wouldn't confirm a published report stating officials spent $5 million on improvements over the offseason. Besides the video upgrade, Arnold said, officials spent $400,000 to replaced a major barn roof. Zenner did say there have been more improvements than in recent years. Arnold said the track's depreciation rate is around $3.5 million per year.

"We always try to reinvest in our physical plant to match that depreciation rate; sometimes we spend more, sometimes less," said Arnold.

The track has added reserved viewing areas for members of the Arlington Racing Club, the track's season membership program. A covered seating area on the track's apron will be available, as well as reserved picnic benches outside.

If you go

What: Arlington Park opens its thoroughbred racing season

When: Thursday, 11:15 gates open with racing at 1 p.m.

Season: 91 racing days through Sept. 26.

Live racing: Thursday through Sunday. No racing: Monday-Wednesday except for three Mondays: May 31, July 5 and Sept. 6.

Post times: 1 p.m. Thursdays and Sundays, 3 p.m. Fridays (2 p.m. Fridays in September). Saturday posts vary from 12:15 p.m. to 1 p.m. except for 4 p.m. post on July 3.

Admission: $4 online or $6 at the gate on Thursdays; $6-$8 weekends; $8-$10 on Kentucky Derby Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day and July 3. Seniors $4 on Thursdays.

Parking: Free, but $5 preferred and $10 valet also.

Programs: $3-$4.50

Special dates

• Kentucky Derby, May 1

• Preakness Stakes, May 15

• Belmont Stakes, June 5

• Prairie State fest, June 19

• Fiesta in the Park, July 11

• Arlington Million, Beverly D and Secretariat races, Aug. 21

On the Web: arlingtonpark.com; arlingtonparklive.com