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Breeder's Cup construction begins
by Joe Paschen

With the International Festival of Racing behind them and the Breeder's Cup two months in front of them, officials from Arlington Park looked on this week as preparations began to add 35,000 temporary seats for the Oct. 26 extravaganza.

"We started setting up a staging area two weeks ago," stated Jim Gluckson, Sr., Director of Event Communications of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. The NTRA, Thoroughbred racing's governing body, is a partner with the Breeders' Cup group in coordinating the Breeders' Cup World Championships.

"In two and a half weeks, we'll have 5,000 seats," Gluckson said during the Festival last weekend, "and expect to have all the temporary seats in place by Oct. 17."

To accommodate the additional seats, tents and restrooms that will be placed to the east and west of the main clubhouse building, numerous trees will be uprooted, and replanted once all the temporary facilities are taken down after the B.C. Championships.

It's not what staffing wanted to do, but they say extra care will be taken to return the colorful landscaping to what fans have become accustomed to at Arlington Park.

"We've tried to save as many trees as possible and are very conscious of how track officials and fans want the facility to look like," stated Wendy Wilkerson, Event Coordinator for the Colonnade Group, who will construct the physical changes needed to accommodate the 45,000 fans expected for "the Super Bowl of horse racing."

A team of supervisors has been on hand at Arlington preparing for this week, the first of a major overhaul operation that has begun.

"We have our "A-team" here with a significant amount of special event experience," Wilkerson said prior to the Secretariat Stakes last Saturday afternoon. "We do the special event preparations for 25 PGA Tournaments and the SEC Championships. Anytime we do an event, we want our temporary construction of seating and tents to look like it belongs there."

Numerous pieces of heavy equipment, plans, tents and vehicles occupy the area immediately south of the backstretch tree line. Two construction trailers take up space in the parking lot adjacent to the third turn, which will be headquarters for the Colonnade Group the next three months.

"It'll take us at least one month to strike everything down and have the facility ready to begin the process of returning it for next year's racing," Wilkerson went on to say. "This is going to be a very exciting process that we hope fans and racing officials will love."

In addition to the majority of changes taking place outside the clubhouse, NBC-TV will build special platforms for their talent and equipment, which will be tested Sept. 29 when the network televises a series of BC prep races.

"NBC will be using more cameras than ever before in their live coverage of the Breeders' Cup," Gluckson added. "There will be large tents built behind all the temporary stands for concessions, pari-mutual clerks, executive restroom trailers and other enhancements for the crowds."

Inside, the Silks Club will be made into an auxilary press area to accommodate 250 media members in addition to the 100 that will be situated in the main press box.

Other changing areas at Arlington that fans will begin to see materialize in the coming weeks include the removal of benches on the outside apron for portable seating and the park areas being cleared out of tables and benches.

Wilkerson and Gluckson both stated that the working crews would not be interfering with the normal live racing programs and flow of people and horses Wednesday through Sunday, but those crews would be busy every hour they can.

Track officials don't expect the changes to take away from the Arlington Park experience.

"We think what is taking place here at Arlington and what will be by hosting the Breeders' Cup proves we're doing everything we can to bring the very best of racing to the midwest," boasted Arlington Park Chairman Dick Duchossios from the winners circle last weekend. "The fans will not be affected by the preparations going on for the Breeders' Cup. There's still lots of great racing planned between now and then."

The past several weeks were planned as a dress rehearsal for the Breeder's Cup event, and the past International Festival of Racing weekend proved Arlington is ready.

"Everything we're doing today (Sat. 8/17), like how the winning presentations are taking place, is how we'll do things for the Breeders' Cup," stated Frank Gabriel, Vice President of Racing Operations at Arlington, in between three Grade I stakes and three mid-level stakes that took place last weekend.

When the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships come to Arlington Oct. 26, eight Grade I stakes races will be part of the live card. Eight of the richest races featuring fields of the world's finest race horses will be on hand in front of the one of the largest live racetrack crowds in Illinois history.

Tickets for the 19th running of the Breeders' Cup Championships are still available. For further information on purchasing tickets for the BC call Arlington Park (847-244-4300) or check online at arlingtonpark.com or ntra.com.




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