Arlington Park seeks billboard as new revenue source
Arlington International Racecourse wants to install a 20-by-60-foot digital billboard along Route 53 in Rolling Meadows that would generate extra revenue for the track beyond traditional wagering.
The billboard is proposed for a location on the west side of the track's property near Rohlwing Road and Industrial Drive. It would be at least 95 feet tall and across the highway from an existing digital board.
The double-sided billboard -- showing advertisements that change every 10 seconds -- could generate $120,000 in net revenue for the racecourse every year, according to Tony Petrillo, the track's general manager.
The sign would cost about $700,000 to install, and it could take 3½ years or more to recoup those costs before Arlington starts turning a profit on the venture, Petrillo said.
The desire to install a billboard is part of an overall effort to find new sources of revenue outside horse race betting, which has declined 38 percent since 2009.
At that time, about 70 percent of the track's revenue was derived from wagering, but today it's just the opposite. Now, most of the money generated comes from off-track, race-day events, like wine and music festivals, and events that happen outside of the 22-week racing season, including craft and trade shows.
Arlington also rents out its parking lots for "ride and drive" events hosted by car companies.
"We are reinventing ourselves as an entertainment destination," Petrillo said.
Rolling Meadows aldermen this week appeared favorable to the billboard, which the racecourse would need a variance to install. Petrillo said Arlington is willing to give the city ad time to advertise local events.
The request for the billboard is scheduled to go before the plan commission April 4, followed by city council first and second reading votes April 25 and May 9, respectively.
The racecourse is also pursuing installation of a billboard just to the north of the proposed Rolling Meadows location, near its horse practice track. That request could go before the Arlington Heights village board March 6, but Petrillo anticipates a longer permitting process.
A potential billboard in that location would have to be installed when horses were not at the track due to the construction activity, he said.