Scott Wells is the first to admit that news of a potential sale of Remington Park a few years ago might have triggered panic in Oklahoma City's Adventure District.
Back then, the park was falling apart, experiencing declining attendance at horse races and lack of re-investment by owners. All that changed when voters approved the addition of a casino at the 19-year-old racetrack. Wells, the park's general manager, said a $33 million makeover that followed has done the trick of making Remington Park once again a top destination. And recent news that the park might be sold by Toronto-based Magna Entertainment Corp. is not creating any anxiety with Wells or his peers at other Adventure District attractions. "We're up 11 percent this year,” Wells said. "And we had 1.3 million visitors in 2006, up from 230,000 in 2005. It's doing very well. And the slot machine revenue ($240 per machine daily) is beyond what I expected.” Wells said the crowds are up at the races as well. "For the thoroughbred season that came August 2, we were up 24 percent,” Wells said. "And the quality of the racing is up too.” During that same season, the park was hit with 3,000 requests for its 1,300 horse stalls. Nobody in the Adventure District can say for sure that the revived Remington Park is the source of the other attractions' good fortunes — but they know they've had a very good year. At the Oklahoma City Zoo, attendance topped 800,000 visitors. "It's had a positive impact,” said Bert Castro, executive director of the Oklahoma City Zoo. "We just had our best year ever.” Castro said he has seen more cars in the parking lot at the adjoining racetrack and more traffic on Martin Luther King Boulevard, the main corridor in the Adventure District. "We've seen what seems to be a success,” Castro said. "They've been a great partner, helping beautify the area and donating money to help the Adventure District out. We're on the outside looking in — but they seem to be doing well.”
A new adventureOne also has to wonder if any of the sell-out crowds at this year's Women's College Softball World Series at the district's ASA Hall of Fame Stadium might have made the trip knowing about the new entertainment nearby. Courtney Gutekunst, coordinator of the Adventure District, estimates attendance at area attractions is up by at least 1 million from the last count of 2.5 million released in 2005. "I think Remington Park is doing very well,” Gutekunst said.
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Thoroughbred horses finish the first race on a Friday afternoon in front of the grandstand at Remington Park Racetrack in northeast Oklahoma City in this 2004 photo. The Oklahoman archive