Having recovered from some hurricane damage, Evangeline Downs will open its next-to-last season at its current location April 4. The Carencro, La., racetrack will race through Sept. 1.
Peninsula Gaming purchased Evangeline in 2002 and already broke ground on a new facility in Opelousas in neighboring St. Landry Parish. Gaming at the new Evangeline Downs Racetrack and casino could commence next year, but live racing won't be held at the new facility until 2005.
In the meantime, Evangeline has made improvements to its current facility in the wake of Hurricane Lili, which caused more than $600,000 worth of damage to the barn area and grandstand.
"If it is possible to have some good come from Lili, it is in the fact that we will have a renovated clubhouse when live racing begins," Evangeline general manager David Yount said. "A new roof was just completed last week, and we are putting the finishing touches on a new coat of paint."
Evangeline, which races Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Monday evenings, received 1,826 applications for 962 stalls. Dave Angelle and C.J. Woodley, the top trainer and jockey, respectively, for the 2002 meet, will return.
George Papanier, chief operating officer for Peninsula Gaming, said customer service will be a priority for the upcoming meet. "One of the main benefits to a racetrack through merger with a casino company is in the area of customer service," he said. "We are in the business of providing our guests with a quality entertainment experience supported by the highest level of employee service, and our goal is to bring that to Evangeline Downs."
Evangeline recently joined the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. It began airing television and radio commercials in south central Louisiana to heighten awareness of horse racing.
Sean Beirne, director of racing, simulcasting, and public relations for Evangeline, will take over as track announcer as well. Beirne called races at River Downs from the mid-1990s through last year, when he left the Ohio track to take his current position.