Arlington Park plans to build two new dormitories for backstretch workers at the track, president Cliff Goodrich announced Friday.During a press conference held at the site of the new housing, Goodrich said the project, which will be completed in two phases at an estimated cost of $3 million, will add 96 new units in two separate buildings over the next two years. Funding for the project – which was first submitted to Arlington Park's parent company, Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI) in May – was approved June 17 during a regularly scheduled meeting of the executive committee of CDI's board of directors. "Today's announcement of the construction of new housing on the Arlington Park backstretch is the culmination of many months of planning," said Goodrich. "Arlington Park has a long-term commitment to improving the quality of life while ensuring the safety of families on the backstretch. This is just one step in that process. Lorna Propes, chairman of the Illinois Racing Board, said, "We see this as a very positive initiative which will address the myriad of safety and standard of living issues presented by the racing industry practice of providing free housing for seasonal workers." The two new dorms will be built in the northwest section of the backstretch. The new housing will be isolated from all barns.Both of the two new buildings will be two stories high with 48 units, 24 on each floor. Each room will provide a sleeping space of approximately 190 square feet, exceeding the current Building Code requirements in the Village of Arlington Heights, which has adopted the National Building Administrators and Code Administrators (BOCA) law as part of its local building ordinance. Every room will have a separate sink, toilet and shower for its occupants. In addition, individually controlled central heating, ventilation and air conditioning will be incorporated into the design. Laundry facilities will be included on each floor. Construction on the first building will begin following the conclusion of the current racing season on Sept. 19, so that it will be ready for occupancy by May 2005 when horsemen begin to arrive for next year's meet. The second building will constructed during the off-season after the 2005 race meet in order to be ready for start of the following season in May 2006. The 160-acre Arlington Park backstretch is home to 2,140 horses and about 1,100 backstretch residents during the racing season. Arlington Park provides free housing to all backstretch residents, who work for individual trainers and are not employees of the track.
In addition, the Racetrack Industry Charitable Foundation (RICF), the Race Track Chaplaincy of America and the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association provide services and programs to backstretch residents largely free of charge. "The new dorms will improve living conditions for the people on the backstretch and make the track a safer place for the kids because they will be away from the main traffic and the horses," said Arlington Park chaplain Louis Peralta.