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Races to run at Rillito Downs

Posted at 8:08 PM, Jan 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-20 09:02:58-05
Horse races will continue to run at Rillito Downs for at least two more seasons. That's what Pima County Supervisors voted Tuesday when they extended the track's management contract through July 2017.
 
The tracks future was in doubt because there's high interest in using the land it stands on for more soccer fields.
 
Horse have raced at Rillito Park for more than 70 years.  People who love the old track say it's history on the hoof, and a part of Tucson's heritage.
         
But soccer fans say the races run only a few weeks a year and take up space that could fill a growing demand for soccer.
          
Pima Supervisors heard heart felt pleas to keep horse racing at Rillito, 
 
Yolanda Herrera’s father worked at the track. “We have now four generations who attend those race tracks and pardon me if I'm getting emotional but this is very, means a lot to me."
          
Others argued to devote the space to soccer.
 
In the end, Supervisors voted to renew the contract for two more racing seasons, but study whether soccer, racing, or a mixture of uses would be best.
          
Ted Schmidt is President of the Pima County Junior Soccer League, but thinks a two year extension is a good call.
 
"What we had suggested at the outset was that we have an opportunity to get the public educated and then find out what the public really wants in the way of a park over there at Rillito."
       
Jaye Wells, the head of the Rillito Park Foundation says a longer contract would help raise money to improve facilities.  He says now that the park hosts a large farmers market and several festivals it's about more than horse races.
 
"And we believe that multi use embraces the soccer community that still wants it to be nothing but a sports complex."
 
Soccer boosters say the potential of hosting big tournaments could mean more money for the local economy.
       
There's been discussion of moving horse racing to the Pima County fairgrounds but racing supporters question whether the county has the money to have a suitable track there.