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updated: 7/30/2011 7:58 AM

Officials, residents open to night races at Arlington Park

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  • Arliington Park may seek permission to have night races like Churchill Downs has in Louisville, Ky.

      Arliington Park may seek permission to have night races like Churchill Downs has in Louisville, Ky.
    Photo Courtesy of Churchill Downs

 
 

The horse isn't even out of the starting gate, but Arlington Heights officials and residents are eager to hear more about a proposal for a few select night racing dates next season at the town's racetrack.

"I think it's an idea right now, it's a concept," Arlington Heights Mayor Arlene Mulder said Friday. "It's not bringing something new, it's just extending it into a different part of the day. We'd give it the same look as any other proposal."

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Though she doesn't remember such a concept having been proposed in the past 20 years, there was a limited amount of night racing at the track in the early '70s, according to others.

Mulder said she's open to ideas that would strengthen the viability of the track, but also is concerned about the impact on residents of Arlington Heights and surrounding towns.

That sentiment was echoed by her Rolling Meadows counterpart, Mayor Tom Rooney.

"One of our primary interests would be to be a good neighbor," Rooney said. "We would like to support the track."

While he thought either distance or screening from trees would make lights a nonissue for those living closest to the track, he didn't want to preclude the opinions of those residents.

Luella Cherry's Rolling Meadows house backs up to Euclid Avenue right at the track's second bend, directly west of the Cook County courthouse. She's never considered the noise or traffic from the track to have a big impact on her home, and doesn't think the addition of lights would make much difference.

"It wouldn't bother us as long as the lights weren't shining in our windows," she said. "They'd better keep the track. It also brings revenue into our town."

Robert Sang lives directly east of the courthouse in Arlington Heights and doesn't believe he'd notice much difference from lights at the track either.

However, Mike McQuade who lives in Palatine's Arlington Station townhouse subdivision on Northwest Highway, has some concerns about the combination of night racing and gambling at the track.

"We live right across the street from the racetrack and we like the racetrack," McQuade said. "But there are unknowns right now about the gambling and there are unknowns about night racing."

He said his concerns would be settled if he knew the night racing would be largely on the weekends, end at a reasonable hour such as 9 p.m., and that the track would close immediately after the end of the racing.

For the most part, though, his proximity to Arlington Park has been by choice.

"It's wonderful on the Fourth of July," McQuade said. "We're fans of the racetrack and want to support it."

The Daily Herald learned this week that track officials were preparing to submit a request Friday for a handful of night racing dates next season that would require temporary lights. And if the Illinois Racing Board grants approval at the dates hearing in late September, they could see it working successfully to the point where eventually permanent lighting would be installed.

On Friday, however, Arlington Park officials would neither confirm nor deny what 2012 dates they sought from the IRB or whether or not night racing was part of their request. That's because until the IRB releases the official dates requests on Monday afternoon, no one associated with race tracks is allowed to discuss the details.

Calls to Illinois Racing Board were not returned Friday.

The impetus behind the proposal for night racing is the success of a similar program at Churchill Downs. Since starting night racing at the Kentucky track in 2009, attendance has tripled and wagering at the track on those dates has doubled.

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