Arlington International Race Course reopens Thursday amid pandemic

Arlington International Race Course is ready for fans to return to the stands.

The horses have been running at Arlington Park since late July, but in this pandemic world, spectators and gamblers have been forced to watch online. That changes Thursday, as Arlington Park opens its doors to a limited number of people for the first time this year.

Arlington Park president Tony Petrillo says under a deal cut with the state and the county, only 300 spectators will be allowed inside, a fraction of the 35,000 seats available.

“But everybody’s going to get the Arlington experience. They’re going to come to the ambience, the environment and facility and friendly faces, the welcoming back that they deserve,” Petrillo said.

And of course there will be plenty of new social distancing regulations. Tickets must be purchased online, nobody under 18 years of age is allowed in, arrows are pointing to where you can and cannot go, and seating will be limited to the outdoor patios on the first level.

“All socially distanced. We encourage everyone to remain in their seats, but of course enjoy the live racing as well. There are wagering terminals close by along with food and beverage as well,” said Arlington Park spokesperson Alyssa Ali.

About 100 Arlington Park employees will be brought back and it will pump some badly needed money into local businesses.

“They either come here and drown their sorrows or to celebrate their wedding, so either way it’s great for us,” said Peter Demarakis, owner of Jimmy D’s District.

Demarakis’ family has owned the bar and restaurant in the shadow of Arlington Park for 35 years.

“There is nothing like the thrill of seeing a horse come down the finish line, whether your first second or third,” Petrillo said. “The screaming and yelling. That’s what it’s all about, the energy and enthusiasm the crowd feels.”