FILE - Arlington International Racecourse

Horses compete at Arlington International Racecourse in Arlington Heights, Ill., Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014.

(The Center Square) – The horse racing industry in Illinois suffered another blow when after 100 years, Arlington Park International Racecourse closed.

That leaves only two horse racing facilities left in the state, Hawthorne Race Course in Stickney and another facility in Collinsville.

A Senate Gaming Committee met Thursday to discuss plans moving forward for the industry.

Hawthorne Race Course has been awarded all the Chicago racing dates, so it will feature both thoroughbreds and harness racing, something state Sen. Bill Cunningham called less than ideal.

“Makes it very difficult on both breeds because of the limited number of racing dates and brings into question how long is this sustainable for racing in the Chicago area to operate with only one track,” Cunningham said.

Tim Carey, president of Hawthorne Race Course, told the committee the track will have to be replaced between seasons to accommodate the different racing styles.

“It will be far from ideal, but we are doing it in an agreement with and cooperation by the horsemen, because we believe that the future of both thoroughbred and harness racing is important to Illinois,” Carey said.

FanDuel Sportsbook and Horse Racing in Collinsville, formerly Fairmount Park, will be taking on more racing dates as well. The facility will host 61 thoroughbred dates in 2022, an increase from 53 this year.

A horse racing group showed interest in the Arlington Heights facility, but it wasn’t meant to be. The Chicago Bears have signed a $197 million purchase agreement for the racetrack land, taking the next step in a potential move from Soldier Field.

Construction started in 1927 in Arlington Heights for the racecourse. The property was gutted by fire in 1987 and underwent a $400 million renovation shortly after.

Other Illinois horse tracks have also met their demise. Balmoral Park in Crete hosted its final harness race in 2015 before the property went into bankruptcy. The grounds were transformed into a show jumping facility.

Maywood Park was located in Melrose Park, about 12 miles from downtown Chicago. The harness racing track was built in 1946 but closed in 2015. The property is now home to an Amazon distribution center.

Staff Reporter

Kevin Bessler reports on statewide issues in Illinois for the Center Square. He has over 30 years of experience in radio news reporting throughout the Midwest.