I read today that the Arlington Park property was sold to the Chicago Bears, and the Churchill Downs Incorporated CEO Bill Carstanjen was excited about what that would mean for Arlington Heights. Perhaps a stadium coming to that region will be more lucrative than a racetrack. I won’t debate that or if it’s true or not. Carstanjen further commented on the sale of the property by saying the proceeds might be used to build another racetrack in Illinois. Build another racetrack in Illinois when a beloved track is already in existence there? I admit I don’t know the whole story since I don’t live in Illinois about Arlington Park’s continued operation being feasible without assistance like slots. I’ve heard hints it may not be. I do know that CDI is adamant that will not happen so there won’t be competition with a nearby casino it has invested in, and that is what is the track’s death knell.
Even if CDI has branched beyond the racing industry, racing is still their primary business. To hear that they will let another track be demolished so a casino can operate is a travesty. It doesn’t sit well to hear a CEO of this company say he is “excited” about a move that will be the end of Arlington. But to hear that the proceeds will be for another track, just so it is far from that precious casino? How could one think anything but that there isn’t much thought for racing if it becomes a hindrance to their other plans. That would be more understandable if they weren’t the operator of these tracks by design, if they operated in another industry and had a chance to acquire land racetracks are on. I can’t fathom selling lovely historic tracks to the highest bidder and undermining a racing circuit in the process.
But enough of that. First, the vent; and now to honor what Arlington will always mean to me.
When I visited, I was enamored immediately. I explored every bit of the track I could that was open to the public. I even went down to a basement level floor that seemed a bit more utilitarian that contained primarily offices. Yet even there the love of the sport and the homage to racing history shone. There was a large hand-made collage on one of the walls there filled with photos of horses.
Touches of elegance, like embossed decor reminiscent of a master sculptor’s work, were also found throughout the facility. There was so much charm and ambience.
I watched some races at the head of the stretch, and a band played there between races, and kids ran around in the open grassy field. It was a thoughtful touch, providing entertainment beyond racing to hold the attention of those who may not be enthralled by an entire day of racing but would still like to see it. It was one more example of attention to detail that can make a day out memorable, for it shows people considered the whole experience from beginning, middle, and end. And that is what made me think of wanting to share this track with my nephew in late July this year.
I looked back at my photos from that visit today. That’s the first time it hit me strongly what this track being gone will mean when that becomes reality.
I’ve faced some challenging times lately. I haven’t paused to think of this track’s end more than fleetingly because there was already enough I was working through that was less than ideal, and that would hit me with another sense of loss.
So I know what will remain are the memories of one perfect day there. No amount of corporate greed or demolition equipment can take that away. I will always be grateful I got to experience what Arlington Park was all about. It was everything a day at the races should be.