Arlington Park has agreed to a settlement in a federal lawsuit brought by the United States and HOPE Fair Housing Center regarding backstretch housing, the track announced March 1. The settlement still must be approved by the federal court.
In addition, Arlington Park announced that it has made significant progress on the construction of a new $2.6 million residential building with 48 units that will be ready for occupancy prior to the start of the 2007 racing season beginning May 4. The units include private bathrooms and air conditioning for backstretch workers with families.
The consent decree recognizes Arlington Park's right to continue its policy, based upon safety concerns, of not placing children in certain residential buildings located adjacent to stables and related operations. The parties have agreed that Arlington Park may limit residence in such buildings to backstretch workers who are licensed by the Illinois Racing Board. The consent decree, which was approved by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, provides that application of this "licensed worker restriction" does not constitute familial discrimination under the Fair Housing Act.
“The terms of this settlement validate our concerns and policy,” said Roy Arnold, Arlington Park president, in making the announcement. “The safety of the children living on the backstretch has always been our primary concern. Our housing policy takes into consideration that the proximity of certain housing in question to Thoroughbred race horses and various heavy agricultural and industrial operations poses significant risks and dangers for persons residing in those buildings.
“Prior to the start of the 2005 racing season, the track constructed two new buildings with 96 total housing units at a cost of $4.2 million,” added Arnold.
Also as part of the settlement, Arlington Park will donate $100,000 to District 214 Community Education to expand the “Kids on Track” summer program to operate on weekends for eight weeks each summer for the next three years. Any remaining funds are to be used for the purchase of new recreational and/or computer equipment, and software.
“Illinois is the only state that requires racetracks to provide housing for the families of backstretch workers, which places significant demands on the tracks to provide on-site services to those residents,” explained Arnold. “The backstretch residents work directly for individual trainers and are not employees of Arlington Park. All housing and almost all services provided by the Racetrack Industry Charitable Foundation, Racetrack Chaplaincy of America and District 214 Community Education are funded by Arlington Park and provided at no cost to backstretch residents and their families.”
The 160-acre Arlington Park backstretch is home to 2,140 horses and approximately 1,100 backstretch residents during the racing season from May through September.