Virus doesn't deter fans at Nebraska racetrack

Spectators prepare to leave their seats in Fonner Park in Grand Island, Neb., Saturday, March 14, 2020, after the horse races were called off due to dangerous track conditions following snowfall.

GRAND ISLAND -- Fonner Park and the Nebraska Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and the Nebraska Thoroughbred Breeders Association have announced a two-week trial period to conduct no-spectator Thoroughbred horse racing, according to a press release. Because of the global COVID-19 outbreak, on March 16, the traditional Fonner Park horse racing season (with spectators) was suspended until further notice.

The trial period of racing is to commence on March 23 through April 1. Racing will be conducted Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday with a 3:30 p.m. first post. A minimum of eight races are intended to be run on each race day. An assessment of the productivity of this venture we be made following the two-week trial term of six days of racing.

The racing facility will be closed to spectators. However, individuals with a current Nebraska horse racing license who are directly involved with a horse that participates on race day are permitted into the facility for that specific race only. Designated areas will be defined, additional new polices are being established.

Fonner Keno and the Finish Line Lounge is open and following all current restaurant restrictions.

The entire grandstand and indoor facility has undergone a massive cleaning endeavor; daily and hourly cleaning protocols and social distancing parameters have been established to address COVID-19 awareness.

“Currently horse racetracks in our nation are either closed or operating with a no-spectator adaptation of racing,” said Chris Kotulak, Fonner Park CEO. “My primary concern is the uninterrupted care of the horses in our stable area, and a continued opportunity for their caregivers to maintain a livelihood through racing and the distribution of purse money from racing. Our guests who adore and support horse racing in Grand Island, Nebraska may monitor horse racing via the free live streaming portal on the Fonner Park website.”

Please refer to the official Fonner Park Facebook page or fonnerpark.com

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