Sportsman's Plans 'Fan-Friendly' Improvements

The National Jockey Club, which last year converted Sportsman's Park to a dual purpose horse racing-automobile racing track, planned to announce Tuesday a two-year, multi-million dollar improvement plan that will include a renovation of the interiors and exteriors of the grandstand and clubhouse facilities at Sportsman's Park.

According to the announcement, the project is aimed at restoring "the ambiance and fan-friendly features of the historic facility that had been its hallmarks in the industry for over six decades."

National Jockey Club president Charles W. Bidwill, III and chief operating officer Edward T. Duffy were scheduled to detail the plan at the Tuesday morning meeting of the Illinois Racing Board.

"Our intention will not only be to restore the convenience and 'up close and personal' feeling that our patrons loved for so long," Duffy said. "We are going to go beyond what existed prior to the conversion of Sportsman's Park into a multi-purpose sports and concert facility and make it an aesthetically pleasing state-of-the-art facility for both our live racing and simulcast fans."

Included in the plan are new access points to the track apron and the winner's circle from the first and second levels of the grandstand, the third and fourth levels of the clubhouse, and the paddock area. The grandstand interior will be completely renovated to accommodate more seating, closed-circuit and simulcast TV monitors, and access to wagering facilities. The track is also installing a new escalator.

In addition, there will also be an improved and expanded infield tote board, the elimination of the crash fence in front of the stands to improve the view of the live races, enhanced signage and graphics throughout the building, "aesthetic enhancement of surroundings," and an overall "fan-friendly" makeover, according to the announcement.

"We went directly to the fans to get their reaction to our new facility," Duffy said. "While they were unanimous in their praise of our racing strip, they expressed concerns about the limited access to the apron, the sight lines, and the lack of adequate seating in the best live racing viewing areas. We responded to these issues by hiring an architectural firm to bring them in to access the situation and implement a plan. What they have brought back to us will not only restore what people liked best about Sportsman's Park before the conversion, it will make it even better."