Arlington Racecourse Officially Up For Sale As ‘Redevelopment Opportunity’

Posted By Joe Boozell on February 23, 2021

Churchill Downs announced on Tuesday that it would officially launch the process of selling Arlington International Racecourse.

This news won’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s followed Arlington headlines over the past few years, but it’s still significant. Arlington is one of three horse tracks in Illinois.

Churchill Downs will continue running horse races through 2021, as it does not expect a sale before then.

Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen said the following in a press release:

“Arlington’s ideal location in Chicago’s northwest suburbs, together with direct access to downtown Chicago via an on-site Metra rail station, presents a unique redevelopment opportunity. We expect to see robust interest in the site and look forward to working with potential buyers, in collaboration with the Village of Arlington Heights, to transition this storied location to its next phase.

“In the meantime, we are very committed to pursuing the relocation of Arlington’s racing license to another community in the Chicagoland area or elsewhere in the state. We are exploring potential options with the state and other constituents and remain optimistic that we can find solutions that work for the state, local communities and the thousands of Illinoisans who make their living directly or indirectly from thoroughbred horse racing.

“We are committed to the Illinois thoroughbred racing industry and will consider all options in working toward opportunities for it to continue into the future.”

The keyword there could be “redevelopment,” as it sure doesn’t sound like racing is in the track’s future.

Churchill Downs in Waukegan?

As Carstanjen mentioned in his statement, Churchill Downs wants to transfer its license elsewhere in Illinois.

It is currently an applicant for the Waukegan casino license, so that is the most likely destination.

Of course, there is no guarantee that the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) chooses the Churchill bid, though perhaps they have a reason to believe otherwise. There are two other applicants for the Waukegan license: Full House Resorts and North Point Casino.

If chosen, the city of Waukegan would also need to sign off on the horse racing aspect of the “racino.”

In the thick of the Arlington sale rumors, Waukegan Mayor Sam Cunningham said:

“In any economic times, we’d be foolish not to listen to any proposal by a credible developer. But a racino? Right now, our top priority is to get our citizens through these times and then, hopefully, look forward to a new casino opening sometime late next year.”

We should be moving closer to a resolution on the open casino bids.

The IGB found Hard Rock Casino Rockfordpreliminarily suitable” for a casino license earlier this month. That’s a crucial step in securing final approval.

Applicants for other regions, such as Waukegan, still don’t know their fate. But there should have more information by the end of April.

About Arlington International

Consisting of 326 acres of land in Arlington Heights, Arlington International opened in 1927.

It has 35,000 seats and 12,000 clubhouse seats. It hosts the International Festival of Racing.

Arlington also hosted the first $1 million purse thoroughbred race in 1981.

Churchill Downs purchased the track in 2000, and it looks like its ownership run will end after about 21 years.

Photo by Paul Beaty / AP
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Joe Boozell

Joe Boozell has also been a college sports writer for NCAA.com since 2015. His work has also appeared in Bleacher Report, FoxSports.com and NBA.com. Growing up, Boozell squared off against both Anthony Davis and Frank Kaminsky in the Chicagoland basketball scene ... you can imagine how that went.

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