Arlington Park's opening day takes 'final turn' amid COVID-19 pandemic

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. (WLS) -- It's been a while since a substantial group of fans have been able to watch live racing at Arlington International Racecourse in northwest suburban Arlington Park.

Last year it was limited to a few hundred. This year it is several thousand, including Mike Butler who hasn't missed an opening day in 30 years.

"Gotta be here opening day" said race fan Mike Butler. "The renewed opportunity, spring blooms eternal I guess."

Arlington Park is calling this season the final turn, the last before the track which opened in 1927 calls it quits. The pandemic has been hard on the track.

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Anxious fans lined up to get in as soon as the gates opened this afternoon. Seating was assigned and socially distanced due to COVID-19.

It is a bittersweet opening for many, including Arlington Park Vice President Ken Kiehn who has worked at the track since he was 17 years old.

"There's a lot of us who have worked here a long time so it's bittersweet but you can only control what you can control and that's to put on a good show," said Kiehn.

The iconic track has been a fixture in the northwest suburbs since Carolyn White and JoAnn Sawyers were kids.

They said they made out for a few bets but mostly for a relaxing afternoon and the start of the final season.

"Definitely bittersweet so we will come as much as we can this summer that's for sure," said Sawyers.

Pat Treacy and his daughter Sheila have been coming for years. It's a great father-daughter bonding time and they said they are sad to see it come to an end.

"I love the environment our here Friday afternoon come to unwind and I'll miss it if it goes away," said Treacy.
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