Fonner Park wraps up record-breaking season

Published: May. 27, 2020 at 10:15 PM CDT
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The grandstands have been closed but the sites and sounds of Fonner Park have kept going up until the final day of races at the track.

"I would be lying if I said that I was not happy that the season is winding down," Fonner Park CEO, Chris Kotulak said. "We really had a wonderful time in the sun. We made the best of it as we possible could."

It has been a record-breaking season at the track. Since they closed the grandstands on March 23 their average daily handle has risen to $3.5 million a day. Plus, the set the record for daily handle in a day on April 7 when it rose highter than $7.2 million.

However, staying open during this pandemic didn't come without its risks.

"We felt we have been as best as compliance as possible in the ever involving needs and protocols of the COVID-19 pandemic," Kotulak said.

For the horse trainers and jockies, who a month ago had no where to go, they are grateful for Fonner Park keeping its stables open.

"We've been blessed you know because as we know a lot places you know they have to stop running and we got kind of lucky to keep going," Horse Trainer, Isai Gonzalez said.

During this final day, central Nebraskans packed the parking lot one final time.

"This was a lot of fun hanging out on what we call the back side, my friends and I love horse racing," Grand Island resident, Terry Regan said. "I follow it. I wish I was better gambling at it but it's all in fun."

It has been quite the season at Fonner Park and for Kotulak his biggest takeaway is the flexibility his staff has shown.

"We were able to show that we can push on and do whatever is necessary at the time. So I guess that's my take home message," he said.

As the sun sets on Fonner Park one last time, horse racing may be done in Grand Island but they will be back in 2021 with the grandstands hopefully open once again.

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