Arlington International Racecourse on Thursday received permission to host up to 300 spectators per live racing day, beginning as soon as a week from now.
That's less than the 500 to 800 fans the Arlington Heights-based track had requested for daily races, or the 2,000 sought for Kentucky Derby Day on Saturday, Sept. 5. Earlier proposals called for 3,000 or 4,000 spectators within the grandstand, which can seat 34,000.
But the joint approval Thursday by the Illinois Department of Public Health, Cook County Department of Public Health and Arlington Heights Department of Health and Human Services is a winner's-circle victory of sorts for the local oval's officials, who have lobbied for live racing with spectators even before the shortened 30-day season started July 23.
"Wearing masks and social distancing behaviors that have been adopted by the public, along with additional measures incorporated into our plan for spectators, allows us to have a safe environment for everyone in our outdoor grandstand facility," Arlington President Tony Petrillo said in a statement. "We are confident that we will operate our grandstand facility as safely as we have operated in our backstretch and Trackside (off-track betting) facilities over the past few months. We are thankful for the cooperation and assistance of local and state officials who helped develop and approve our plan."
As many as 300 tickets per racing day will be available for purchase at arlingtonpark.com/tickets starting at noon Tuesday, Sept. 1. Tickets will be sold in sets of four to obtain a reserved table along the half-mile-long outdoor stretch. All tickets must be pre-purchased online at least a day in advance and are limited to adults 18 and older.
Prices average $120 for a table of four, though range from $250 to $300 on Derby Day. The cost includes admission, parking and a program.
The first day fans will be able to return is Thursday, Sept. 3, which is two days before Derby Day. The track hosts live racing Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through Sept. 26.
Among the new rules, guests will be required to wear face masks at all times, unless they are consuming food or beverages in their seats. No coolers or outdoor food or beverages will be allowed, officials said.
And, each set of ticket holders will be issued staggered entry and arrival times to limit people waiting in long lines and help maintain social distancing.