Horses Or Bears? Tension Brews Between Churchill Downs-Arlington Heights Amid Sale

Written By Joe Boozell on May 7, 2021
arlington racecourse horse racing

Mayor Tom Hayes and other important Arlington Heights leaders support the continuation of horses race at Arlington International Racecourse.

The track’s owner, Churchill Downs Inc., put it up for sale a few months ago. But now, the mayor, village manager, eight trustees and members of the community development department have taken steps to make horse racing a possibility even after the sale.

City establishes a stringent contract

Earlier this week, the village board unanimously approved an ordinance barring Churchill Downs from placing a restrictive covenant tied to horse racing and gambling on the land.

That indicates Arlington Heights & rsquo’s desire to host horse racing and / or casino gambling on the 326-acre property for a number of years.

The sale will eventually be under Churchill Downs’ control, but Arlington Heights seems to be attempting to influence it.

The first steps were also taken by city officials to enact zoning changes that would forbid 23 specific uses of the property, such as & ldquo, kiddie-andro, parks, funeral homes, adult businesses, carwashes, wholesale offices, and currency exchanges.

Hayes said, via the Daily Herald:

& ldquo, As a diligent village with 326 acres of prime real estate up for sale within our borders, it is really our responsibility to take all necessary steps and precautions to ensure that redevelopment of that property is of the highest caliber. We & rsquo is attempting to entice very serious investors who want to transform this exceptional piece of real estate into something appropriate for our neighborhood and the area. & rdquo,

The worry is that Churchill Downs wouldn’t approve of Arlington’s race or other forms of gambling. That’s because they’re the bulk users of Rivers Casino and don’t want any rivalry.

Just Hawthorne Race Course, FanDuel Sportsbook, and Horse Racing would remain in Illinois if Arlington’s horse racing was shut down.

One potential client is interested in horse racing.

Roy Arnold, president and CEO of Arlington Park from 2006 to 2010, may make an effort to buy the record on behalf of a group of investors.

According to Paulick Report, he sent a letter to the village’s board of trustees announcing his intentions. Arnold has support from Mike Campbell, president of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horseman’s Association.

However, even if Arlington Heights takes steps to limit specific buyers, Churchill Downs will have the last say in any purchase.

We & rsquo will soon discover just how much Churchill Downs values Rivers competition. The distance between the two services is only about 20 minutes.

John Scaletta, a trusted source, said:

There are( are) so many people who want to see horse racing continue, not just in the state of Illinois but across our country, so it’s important to leave the door open so that it can possibly remain a track. Finally someone will visit Arlington Heights with the intention of continuing horse racing.

& ldquo, But even if not, we & rsquo have at least laid the foundation for what we are not looking for, and hopefully they will deliver a development that will benefit the village of Arlington Heights because it is an extremely significant piece of property. & rdquo,

The Arlington Park Bears, what about them?

If you’ve been following this story, you know about the Bears-Arlington buzz that’s been brewing for months.

In 2033, the Bears & rsquo, Soldier Field lease expires. But, Hayes recently stated in an interview with Fox 32 Chicago that the Bears are really considering moving to Arlington Heights.

& ldquo, The Arlington Park site is undoubtedly accessible, and we believe the Chicago Bears would be a great fit for that location. Because it & rsquo is such a special piece of property, I believe the Bears are giving it some serious thought. Given that it is situated in the north cities, where a sizable portion of their market is, it has many advantages. & rdquo,

In response, Chicago Mayor Lightfoot said:

The Bears have a lease on Soldier Field through 2033, and the NFL won’t allow any teams to break their leases. & ldquo, I & rsquo has seen some reports( of potential moves ), but I think you should be aware of two data points. & rdquo,

Hayes added that if there is enough desire to get out of a lease, it can happen. Lightfoot’s comments also drew some eye rolls from Chicago media members, such as Adam Hoge:

arlington park plans

Watching how this all develops will be exciting.

Paul Beaty’s pictures, AP
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Boozell, Joe

Boozell, Joe has also been a college sports writer for since 2015. His work has also appeared in Bleacher Report, and Growing up, Boozell squared off against both Anthony Davis and Frank Kaminsky in the Chicagoland basketball scene … you can imagine how that went.

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