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Feb 9, 2014 12:03 AM by Rebecca Taylor

Rillito Downs stables being relocated, making way for soccer fields

TUCSON - Rillito Park has been home to soccer and horse racing for decades.

Lately there's been talk that the horses, with their aging facility are being pushed out, making way for more soccer fields. For now horse racing will continue at Rillito Downs, at least for the next year. It's also getting some upgrades.

It's opening day at Rillito Downs. Denny Schreffler, the track trumpeter says, "You're going to see families, little kids enjoying it. Kids helping their fathers bet."

Spectator Mike Hunt says, "This is the history of Tucson. This is heritage here in Tucson we need to keep this alive."

The track was founded in 1943. The grandstands and stables are precious to many Tucsonans. Speculation that they'll be torn down, making room for additional soccer fields is upsetting some like John Martin.

"I think the county should keep the horse track open. It's historic and there's plenty of soccer fields in Tucson," says Martin.

Assistant County Administrator Nanette Slusser says, "Everything we've done with this next set of plans, is to allow racing to continue."

She says the county has no current plans to tear down the grandstands or clubhouse. But will condemn and destroy old brick barns, and relocate 260 stables making way for three soccer fields. Once the current contract is up, the county plans to proceed year-by-year.

"As so we will continue to negotiate with them on an annual basis, as long as they're interested, and as long as the facilities are still there," Slusser said.

The county is putting together a future bond package regarding Rillito Park. Slusser says, it's too early to tell if soccer or horse racing will go to voters.

Schreffler says, "If you want to keep live races, you've got to keep Rillito Downs."

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