Historic Arlington Park’s Racing Days Numbered as Churchill Downs Plans to Sell Illinois Track

By | February 24, 2021

In a move few found surprising, Churchill Downs Inc. announced late Tuesday afternoon that it has begun the process to sell Arlington International Racecourse, the iconic Chicago-area track.

Arlington sale
Horses pass the grandstand in an undated photo at Arlington International Racecourse. On Tuesday, Churchill Downs Inc. announced it would begin the process to sell the historic track. (Image: ArlingtonPark.com)

The move means the 2021 racing season, scheduled to run from April 30 to Sept. 25, will in all likelihood be the last for the track, which opened nearly a century ago in Arlington Heights. In a statement, Churchill Downs said it does not expect a sale to close before the end of the meet.

However, the Louisville-based gaming company also announced commercial real estate firm will market the 326-acre property as a “redevelopment opportunity.”

In a statement, Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen touted the track’s proximity to downtown Chicago and the property’s rail station as key features to the next tenant.

“We expect to see robust interest in the site and look forward to working with potential buyers, in collaboration with the Village of Arlington Heights, to transition this storied location to its next phase,” he said.

“Sad Day” for Community

In an email to Casino.org, Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes said the suburban village will work with Churchill Downs and CBRE in hopes the buyer will utilize the “uniqueness” of the property to its fullest extent.

Still, his mood was bittersweet.

Yes, it’s a sad day in Arlington Heights,” Hayes told Casino.org. “Happy that we will have horse racing again at Arlington Park at least this year as we celebrate a business that has been our main attraction for more than 100 years.

“Arlington Park and its many employees have contributed much to Arlington Heights over the years as a valued community partner and will be dearly missed.”

In Churchill’s statement, Carstanjen said the company is “very committed” to maintaining racing either elsewhere in the Chicago area or another part of the state.

“We are exploring potential options with the state and other constituents and remain optimistic that we can find solutions that work for the state, local communities and the thousands of Illinoisans who make their living directly or indirectly from thoroughbred horse racing,” he said. “We are committed to the Illinois thoroughbred racing industry and will consider all options in working toward opportunities for it to continue into the future.”

Jordan Abudayyeh, press secretary to Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, told Casino.org the state awaits word from Churchill on its racing plans in the state.

“The administration will work with all stakeholders to develop an appropriate solution. We remain committed to ensuring a strong racing industry in our state,” she said.


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