Sportsman's Park, which hosted Tuesday's monthly meeting of the Illinois Racing Board, showed off its revamped facility and got a verbal pat on the back from commissioners for improved handle and attendance figures.
"What a difference a year makes," Sportsman's Park official Ed Duffy said. Duffy said live handle at Sportsman's Park is up 17% from 2000, on-track wagering on live racing is up 25%, and attendance is up by 25%-28%.
In 2000, Sportsman's Park suffered from its conversion to a dual-use facility for horse and motor sports racing. With sight lines and other fan amenities compromised, attendance and handle sagged. To address the problems, Sportsman's Park spent several million dollars during the past year to improve its facility, then implemented an extensive fan outreach program to show off the changes.
Duffy said the results reflect the success of those efforts, as well as a significant upturn in field sizes during the 2001 meeting.
"The numbers justify what you've done," IRB chairman Ralph Gonzalez said.
The IRB also approved an emergency request from Hawthorne Race Course to change the dark days during its spring meet from Monday and Tuesday to Wednesday and Thursday.
Commissioner Leon Shlofrock voted against the change; he noted that Hawthorne printed its condition book with Wednesdays and Thursdays dark before it obtained IRB approval for the change.