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Oaklawn begins new year with big expansions | Business

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Oaklawn begins new year with big expansions
Business, Events, News
Oaklawn begins new year with big expansions

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) – Oaklawn will be off to the races early this year. It's the earliest in their 110-year history.

The calendar just turned to 2015, and right away it's time for the racing season at Oaklawn.

The city is ready to welcome the racing community back, and they are looking a little different in 2015 too thanks to a big renovation that's meaning big business for the whole town.

"It's just a tremendous impact."

Renovations at Oaklawn are helping Hot springs ring in the new year just right.

"The better the gaming the higher the purses, the better the live race meet, the more people coming in to Hot Springs."

And with the first meet just a week away, the renovations aren't just filling the pockets of the gaming center.

"They paid an additional over $2 million to the city, they funded over $800,000 to the Oaklawn foundation, that helps our kids in high school, students get scholarships for college," said Steve Arrison, Hot Springs Convention of Visitors Bureau.

The race track and gaming center is the state's largest tourist attraction, bringing in more than 2 million visitors last year, and adding 400 jobs in Hot Springs.

And this year, "200 full time people have been hired because of this construction-that's not to mention all the construction revenue that generated for the construction companies, the electrical companies," said David Longinotti, Oaklawn Director of Racing.

Renovations are attracting some of the most competitive trainers.

Kenny McPeek, a top trainer in the country, even moved his 40 horses to Hot Springs.

"Every year as horsemen we have to try to find we have to try to find better horses, whether you're an owner, you're a trainer, the better horses are usually attracted by the better purses and Oaklawn offers that."

McPeek is even moving to Hot Springs because of the renovations.

"I think I'm more challenged, me personally, with the better racing."

Officials are crediting the bigger purses funded by instant racing for the added attraction.

Trainers, and jockeys from all over the country will be at this year's coon supper before the meet.

Next Wednesday, the North Little Rock chamber will sponsor its annual Oaklawn Preview Banquet at the Wyndham Hotel. Tickets are still available for $50 each with proceeds going toward the disabled jockey fund. This year's guest speaker will be Hall of Fame Jockey Christ McCarron.

Call 501-372-5959 for more information.

Business, Events, News