Arlington International Racecourse

Small Crowd, Big Excitement as Arlington Welcomes Back Spectators

Up to 300 people are allowed to attend races at the Northwest suburban track

NBCUniversal, Inc.

A warm summer day, food and drinks being served, bets being madeand horses racing around the track.

After a long wait, it's all back at Arlington International Racecourse.

"Just being able to welcome our fans back – it’s going to bring an energy and enthusiasm and life to the facility we haven’t seen yet this year," said Arlington President Tony Petrillo.

Since July 23, races have been happening on Arlington's oval, but until Thursday, it was happening with nobody in the grandstand. Finally on Thursday, that changed.

After getting approval from the Arlington Heights Department of Health and Human Services, the Illinois Department of Public Health, and the Cook County Department of Public Health, Arlington ran nine races in front of about 200 spectators (the maximum number allowed is 300). For the fans who watched live racing for the first time this season, it felt incredible.

"The void has been big," said racing fan Michael Howatt. "I would come here, probably, at least three or four times a month ... now being here today, I’m all kinds of excited."

Linda Richard -- another horse racing fan -- said being at the track helped her forget the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

"I just said to [my husband], 'I am out of the house. I almost feel like crying', Richard said. "It feels so good. This is normal. This is something normal. We haven’t done anything normal in months."

And it's not just fans who are glad to be back. About two dozen workers returned to their posts and started collecting paychecks for the first time all season.

"It’s been great to be able to come back, that Arlington was able to put in some employees and we’re able to work today," said Linda Krinke, a guest services representative. "I’m happy about that."

To keep spectators safe, Arlington is requiring masks to be worn unless people are eating.

Additionally, all food and drinks are pre-packaged, and social distancing is being encouraged. Eleven racing dates remain on the schedule, including Friday and Saturday, both of which are sold out. Saturday features the rescheduled running of the 2020 Kentucky Derby, which can be seen on NBC 5.

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