Kris Stabler, a part of the first Arlington Million and the rebirth of Arlington Park after a devastating fire destroyed its grandstand, will retire at the end of the year, ending more than three decades with the Arlington Heights landmark.
Stabler, the track's vice president of community relations, joined Arlington in 1981, the same year it launched the Million, the first thoroughbred race with a $1 million purse. She's worked on all of them since, including two in temporary structures and one run in Toronto.
After watching the 1985 fire through tears, Stabler was thrilled to be a part of the opening of the new grandstand in 1989, which helped establish Arlington as one of the world's most luxurious tracks.
"The opening of the new building was a magnificent sunny weekend of great racing, large crowds and celebration," Stabler said in comments for this week's racing program, the final one of the season.
Asked about her fondest memories of her time at the track, Stabler recalls meeting Arlington Chairman Richard L. Duchossois for the first time in 1984.
"'Hi, I'm Dick Duchossois' was the greeting," she said. "We sat down and discussed the sales department, and upon realizing we were typing letters to customers and keeping our records on spread sheets by hand, we ordered our first computers the next day. What a difference and it kept getting better."
She lists the 1985 "Miracle Million," held just a few weeks after the fire, the grand opening of the reborn track four years later and the 1996 Arlington Citation Challenge race among her other highlights.
Duchossois issued a statement Wednesday praising Stabler's work at Arlington.
"Her contributions were many and she certainly helped in building Arlington's positive reputation within the many communities with which we work." he said. "We wish Kris the very best in the future and hope that she enjoys her retirement with her husband, Larry."
Stabler's career at Arlington mirrored that of former longtime Mayor Arlene Mulder's tenure as Arlington Heights' chief executive. Mulder, who also retired this year, praised Stabler for her work reminding village officials and local businesses of the importance of supporting Arlington Park, one of the community's largest businesses.
"Kris is responsive and interested in the community," said Mulder. "She knows the community and knows so many people. She served as president of the Chamber of Commerce and has been affiliated with Northwest Community Hospital. I have never met a person who doesn't like her. She smiles 90 percent of the time."
Stabler said the list of activities she wants to take up is long, but starts with more time for her new husband, Larry Niemann, and their grandchildren.