Clean-up efforts were underway at Ellis Park Wednesday to reopen the storm-battered track for simulcasting operations tentatively on Nov. 16. Structural engineers from Louisville construction firm Luckett & Farley certified the track's clubhouse, main grandstand, the Sky Theatre and the lower level of the jockeys' quarters as structurally safe late Tuesday afternoon. Clean-up efforts are focused on repairing damage to the clubhouse and securing the grounds to allow simlulcast patrons a safe return. Those efforts include repairing damage to the clubhouse roof, fencing and the replacement of blown-out doors."We are taking deliberate steps to make sure that the facility will be safe and secure for our patrons to return next week," said Paul Kuerzi, Ellis Park's general manager.
During its reopening week, Ellis Park will take donations for the Kentucky victims of the tornado. For a $1 donation, patrons will receive unlimited programs for the day's races. Twins Spires Club members will also receive a 1,000-point bonus for each day they come to the track from Nov. 16-20.The track's grandstand terrace, adjacent to the main grandstand structure, sustained heavy damage, as did the paddock, jockeys' quarters and infield tote board as the result of a tornado that hit the track at approximately 2 a.m. (CST) Sunday morning. The tornado also destroyed 10 barns in the Ellis Park stable area and caused light to moderate damage to several others. Three of the 158 horses on the grounds died from injuries suffered in the storm.Ellis Park completed its 2005 meet on Sept. 5. Horses were on the grounds because the track and stable area remained open for training.As of midday Wednesday, 108 horses remained on the grounds. Ellis Park officials hope that all horses can be moved out of the barn area by the end of the week to allow clean-up efforts to proceed.