It might have been the free brunch. It might have been the beautiful weather after a string of dreadful winter weekends. But whatever the reason, Sportsman's Park officials were ecstatic about the turnout for a "welcome back" event Saturday that drew a surprisingly large crowd for all-simulcast racing.
"As of Friday at 6 p.m., we had more than 1,500 confirmed reservations," said racing director Terry Hart. "We also sent people out to the nearby OTBs to sign people up to attend." The well- populated parking lot testified that most of those who said they would come, did so.
The outreach effort, which featured scrambled eggs, bacon, ham, turkey, salads and drinks -- as well as coast-to-coast simulcasting -- was the first shot in an effort to get people back on track. The 2000 racing season at Sportsman's suffered from the conversion of the track for motor sports. Many of the sightlines were ruined and fan amenities took a back seat to improvements in the track surface.
"As you can see, we've already removed the crash fence," said media director John Brokopp. "Before live racing starts, we will have access directly to the track apron (through the concrete retaining wall)."
Hart said the brunch was so successful that he'd like to schedule another one within a month.