Thoroughbred Season Opener
6:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday
1 Remington Place
Remington Park's 22-year history started off brightly, as the venue emerged as a premiere track with bustling enthusiasm from the state's race fans.
Time passed, and the track's status as a top-notch attraction faded to the point that the park faced closure. After state legislators threw it a lifesaving casino, Remington rebounded, and new owners are aggressively trying to rebuild its image as one of Oklahoma's top gaming landmarks.
According to Scott Wells, Remington Park president, each month thus far in 2010 has set records in attendance and money spent on gaming. He attributes part of the success to the extensive renovation under way by the track's ownership group, Global Gaming Group RP, a subsidiary of the Chickasaw Nation.
"Now, for the first time in its history, Remington Park is owned by Oklahomans," Wells said.
Construction workers have been scrambling to finish repair projects before Thursday's thoroughbred season opener. New televisions have been installed, a Henry Hudson's Pub is forthcoming, and fountains have taken shape outside.
"When Global Gaming bought Remington Park on Jan. 1, they planned on doing major renovations because it was a great facility in bad need of a face-lift," Wells said. "They've gone above and beyond what even I expected them to do. "
Global Gaming took control of the track for $80.25 million, and renovations have already accounted for an additional $7 million. The work touches just about every inch of the facility, from suite and meeting room remodels, replacement of tube televisions in favor of HD flat-screens, and resurfacing and repainting outside walls.
Lighting in the parking lots and on the track were modernized to save energy and to help make the races a more attractive product for worldwide simulcasts. Landscaping is also under way, with trees serving as windbreakers.
Further renovations provide more seating for boxing matches and other special events. Placards and posters are plastered around the track to give race fans a sense of Oklahoma's long history with the sport.
"We've dedicated a space to Oklahoma All-Americans: These are horses that won the All American Futurities and were owned by Oklahomans," Wells said. "Jack Brooks is the Babe Ruth of quarter horse trainers "?he won eight All American Futurities. No one else won more than three, and he's from Blanchard."
With the casino continuing to pump resources into Remington Park, Wells hopes that building interest and aggressive ownership will restore the track's nationwide prominence.
"Years ago, in '88 through early '90s, everyone in the state was proud of Remington Park because it was the most elegant, new racetrack in the nation," he said. "With time and circumstances, things change, but now we are changing them back." "Charles Martin
photo Trainers take thoroughbreds for early-morning runs at Remington Park. Photo/Shannon Cornman