Arlington deserves many more days like this one


Arlington Park is worth saving.

The racetrack opened this weekend and remains one of the few places where sports fans can see what they could see Saturday.

There were ladies in the customary fancy/funny hats. There was the dapper dude wearing a red and white checkered sport coat, white shirt, red bow tie, fire-engine-red trousers and white cap.

There were young people and senior citizens and all ages in between. There were the wealthy and the not so wealthy and all monetary levels in between.

Of course, if they weren't enough there were those little men thundering down the track on those big horses.

Everybody seemed to have a great time if they won and a good time even if they lost.

So two questions: Why don't these fans in big hats and bow ties come out in larger numbers and why don't they come back more often than just opening weekends and Arlington Millions?

Track officials nationally have been trying to come up with answers for a couple decades now. The impression is that they're fighting a trend in society toward more furious activities.

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The knock is that all the time between races makes the sport like print in a digital world, boxing in a mixed martial arts world and Cary Grant in a Vin Diesel world.

A day at Arlington Park or Hawthorne Racecourse is said to be too slow for the 21st century. You know, like it's terrible to have time between races to actually talk to friends and family.

For some tracks the stopgap savior has been slot machines. Up for heated debate is whether Illinois should approve them for tracks in this state.

That will have to be settled on another day. Today simply is for asking whether our tracks and horse racing in general are worth saving.

After going out to Arlington again Saturday, I have to say again that it is.

The preference is personal. This track reminds me of growing up in Chicago and traveling to the original Arlington, and later of sitting out there with bettors like the Hawk and Slippo Sam.


It would be nice to see the Arlington Park of back then, when horse racing was one of America's major sports.

I have lived in Arlington Heights for nearly two decades now. My office has been there for more than three decades.

The track provides the village with a national identity, though in a sport not as prestigious as in the past. Still, how much is name recognition like that worth in appealing to new residents, businesses and tourists?

It must mean something to Arlington Heights and neighboring communities, right?

Anyway, Chicago's suburbs always were going to get the Bears to move out here, or the White Sox, or maybe even the Cubs when Wrigley Field finally collapses.

But the burbs already have a world-class sports facility in Arlington Park, albeit in a sport fighting to remain world-class, to go with Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet and Toyota Park in Bridgeview.


People smarter than I am will have to decide whether that's reason enough to permit slots at Arlington.

Regardless, it just seems that something should be done to help keep Arlington Park open, horse racing alive and the jobs it provides in a struggling economy.

Every sentimental bone in my body aches that this place and that sport are worth saving for as long as possible.