Balmoral Park to reopen with equestrian show jumping this summer

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Balmoral Park, a historic south suburban horse-racing track, is set to reopen for 13 weeks this summer. (WLS)

Balmoral Park, a historic south suburban horse-racing track, is set to reopen for 13 weeks this summer.

The new Balmoral Park is the brainchild of Tom Struzzieri. His company, Hits, or "horses in the sunshine," bought the 200 acre facility for $1.6 million during a bankruptcy auction in 2015. Hits owns equestrian centers around the country, including the flagship in Saugertees, N.Y., the Carnegie Hall of the horsey set.

The big engineering and strategic challenge was what to do and how to fit all that is required for an equestrian center inside the footprint of the track, not to mention what to do about the grandstand.

The revival of the horse park kept memorable symbols from the past and present, specifically in the Grand Prix Stadium, which will display the racetrack's original tote board.

Hits has spent $12 million creating nine arenas inside the track's footprint, where patrons will be able to take in show jumping, dressage, and all the other activities that make up an equestrian meet, all in one place. One thousand stables from the 1940s are being completely redone and the grandstand will serve up food, education and 91 years of history.

Pat Boyle runs horse shows around the Midwest but never has had a true home stadium. Balmoral's repurposing will change that.

"Because of the volume of business that we do and the multiplicity of rings, it's very cool to be there and see all these things going on at the same time," Boyle said.

The old track had to close down when they weren't awarded any racing dates by the Illinois Racing Board.

"We will have Olympic riders here, the highest equestrians here, World Cup champions here in our home town for the first time," said David Kiviat.

Balmoral Park stages its first show Mother's Day weekend.

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