Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes says he and village officials plan to have "extensive involvement" in what becomes of the Arlington Park site, though he noted the village doesn't have control over the property itself.
Hayes said that during conversations with CBRE, the Chicago commercial real estate firm marketing the property on behalf of owner Churchill Downs Inc., village leaders will make sure their preferences for the massive 326-acre site are known.
"There's a lot of ideas that are floating around in terms of what will happen with the racetrack after its closure," Hayes said Thursday during his annual State of the Village address to the Rotary Club, held virtually this year. "I can assure you that it will be a very unique and exciting development, whatever it is -- whether it's a mixed-use development, a single-use development.
"But it will be befitting of Arlington Park's legacy and befitting of the reputation of our community," he continued. "And my goal and my obligation as the mayor of this community -- and I can assure you it's the same for the village board -- is to put this property to its highest and best use."
From a Ravinia-style concert venue to a new Chicago Bears stadium, ideas have run the gamut since Churchill Downs' Feb. 23 announcement that the track was going up for sale.
Rotarian and village plan commission Chairman Terry Ennes asked Hayes about the chances of the White Sox relocating to Arlington Heights.
Hayes said he didn't think the Sox are a possibility.
Despite the impending closure of the 94-year-old horse racetrack -- what Hayes called the village's primary attraction -- his comments on the track fell within the theme of his speech on the overall state of the village, now a year since the onset of the pandemic.
"I like to look at the silver lining in everything. I'm a glass half-full guy," Hayes said. "As we used to say at West Point, difficult times give us character-building opportunities and opportunities to excel."
So despite his long-held desire to keep the park in operation as a horse racing venue, Hayes thanked Arlington for its contributions over nearly a century as a valued community partner and employer.
And he said he's thankful the track will host 68 live racing days from April 30 to Sept. 25 this year, with fans in the stands under capacity limits, at least to start the season.
In a sign of how the racetrack permeates the Northwest suburban town, Hayes acknowledged the village logo pin he wore on his lapel -- complete with a horse's head in the shape of the letter A.
"We'll have to decide if we're going to have to come up with a new flag and logo design as a result of the impending closure of the racetrack," he said.