Arlington Park fans prepare to say goodbye ahead of race track's final weekend

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. (WLS) -- Arlington Park is entering its final weekend before closing for good.

It's an emotional time for many who have long associations to the track. That includes Chris Martin, a huge racing fan who is part owner of several horses and even got married at the track.

"It's just a big part of our lives and to see it go out like this is just painful," he said.

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The track has had a huge impact on the community, not only as an attraction drawing fans from all over, but providing a huge number of jobs. And the park supports lots of other businesses, like Big Ange's eatery down the street, where employees and fans alike come before and after the races to fill up on some great barbeque.

"We get jockeys, trainers, and people who come from the track after," said Angelina Fridono, Big Ange's owner.

Big Ange is hoping whoever buys the track will continue to draw crowds to the area. At the Illinois Racing Board meeting Thursday morning, Arlington Park made it official when they requested no racing dates for next season.

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Track CEO Tony Petrillo is getting plenty of hugs from longtime friends. While it's hard to say goodbye, he said he's doing his best to make it a memorable run to the finish line.

"Don't be sad it's over, be glad it happened," Petrillo said. "And I really have so many great memories, it ending is not gonna wash those away."

There was a good crowd on hand for the start of the last weekend. Fans are coming from all over for to reminisce for one last time at the track. Patty Saccone said it was her first job out of high school.

"It holds a lot of memories from growing up. Friendships started. For me it's very sad," she said.

Tickets are sold out for Saturday's final day, but some may become available at the last minute.

Arlington Park will be going out with a bang. A big fireworks show is scheduled after the final race.
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