Arlington Informs Employees of Layoffs After Its Meet

Arlington International Racecourse president Tony Petrillo notified employees over the weekend of the Illinois track’s plans to lay off workers shortly after its current meet ends Sept. 25.

A notice of at least 60 days to employees of layoffs is required by Illinois state law, though the company could still change plans.

Track owner Churchill Downs Inc. announced its wishes to sell the historic property for development and received bids to purchase it earlier this year from numerous entities. These parties include the Chicago Bears of the National Football League, who are unhappy with their current stadium, and a group headed by former track president Roy Arnold. CDI has not announced the bid, if any, it will accept.

The Daily Herald first reported the memorandum sent from Petrillo to workers over the weekend. A person familiar with CDI’s notification forwarded BloodHorse a copy.

“As it was announced earlier this year the Arlington Park Racecourse, LLC has been placed on the market for sale which will result in the closure of Arlington International Racecourse,” Petrillo wrote. “Consistent with these plans, employment separations presently are expected to begin on or about September 25, 2021. The entire Racecourse facility is being permanently closed in conjunction with the expectation of the sale.”

Arlington has marketed this season as “The Final Turn.”

Despite its recent distributed memorandum, CDI requested an application for 2022 race dates for Arlington, the Daily Herald reported earlier this month. Dates applications for next year are due to the Illinois Racing Board July 30, a day after CDI executives speak before investors and media during its second-quarter conference call.

During last year’s second-quarter conference call, CDI’s CEO Bill Carstanjen discussed selling the property.

“The long-term solution is not Arlington Park. That land will have a higher and better purpose for something else at some point,” Carstanjen said last summer.

The move to sell the Arlington land started with CDI’s decision in 2019 not to apply for a newly approved casino license at the track. CDI co-owns nearby Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, Ill., and may not wish to have two gaming properties compete in the same market.

As CDI prepared to accept bids, Arlington Heights passed an ordinance prohibiting CDI from inserting any no-gaming clause in a sales agreement, figuring a successful continuance of racing might require a gaming revenue stream. 

Hawthorne Race Course, which is undergoing a renovation to add a casino, is the only other track in the Chicago area. It conducts both Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing, and a battle for race dates could ensue if it becomes the only track in the area.

Messages left July 27 for Petrillo and CDI vice president of corporate communications Tonya Abeln were not immediately returned.

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