Plan to allow fans at Arlington Park would require masks, staggered entry times
Still awaiting approval to welcome back some spectators in an abbreviated live racing season, Arlington International Racecourse on Wednesday announced some of the proposed new restrictions that would make a day at the races different from years past.
For instance, fans would be required to wear face masks at all times, unless they are consuming food or beverages in their seats, according to the new policies released by the Arlington Heights-based racetrack.
All tickets would have to be pre-purchased online for outdoor reserved seating along the track's expansive half-mile-long stretch. And each set of ticket holders would be issued staggered entry and arrival times to limit queuing lines and help maintain social distancing, officials said.
Children age 17 and under wouldn't be permitted.
Arlington officials said last week they're hoping for permission to host as many as 2,000 spectators for Kentucky Derby Day on Saturday, Sept. 5, and anywhere from 500 to 800 spectators on other race days, which continue Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through Sept. 26.
Only a few tracks nationwide have been allowed to host spectators amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Churchill Downs, the storied Louisville namesake track of Arlington's parent company, had planned to have 23,000 fans for the Derby, but last Friday reversed course and announced the race would be run without fans in light of increasing COVID-19 cases in the area.
A decision on Arlington's request is expected any day now after the track submitted a revised reopening plan to state and local regulators last week. It has been subject to review by the health departments of Arlington Heights, Cook County and the state.
Village Manager Randy Recklaus said there has been much back-and-forth among the agencies in recent days, but no final determination has been made. A decision could come in the next day or so, he added.
Track officials say their plan exceeds the safety guidelines and updated regulations of Phase 4 of the state's reopening plan.
"We understand the intricacies of executing a COVID-19 safety plan for spectators and workers," Arlington President Tony Petrillo said in a statement. "We have demonstrated that we can safely conduct business under strict protocols in our backstretch and at our Trackside (off-track betting) facilities and feel we will be able to conduct business just as safely for spectators at our expansive outdoor grandstand facility."