Grand Island, Neb.,— Racing is back at Fonner Park and this year is extra special.

Fonner Park is celebrating its platinum anniversary. Racing has taken place since 1954 and some things have changed. Fonner Park CEO, Chris Kotulak says the season brings in new changes. 

“The newest thing here obviously is the casino in the concourse. Many people are accustomed to seeing the beautiful display of the Van Berg racing family collection and the Nebraska Racing Hall of Fame, it’s still there but it looks resplendent with 291 slot machines in front of it,” Kotulak said. 

Kotulak says the casino has made a tremendous difference. 

“Fonner park was just gasping on its last breath because we don’t have enough purse money to entice horseman to come and run. The casino has enabled to do that, we are sharing our profit with the horseman, so we ideally hope to double our purse money here at Fonner Park over the course of time. Fortunately, the casino revenues are actually greater than what were expected,” Kotulak said. 

The time  of races is changing. This year racing starts Fridays at 3 instead of at 2. There’s a new announcer, 24-year-old Dustin Stortzum and the casino hours will be changing soon, opening during the week at 7 am, and Fridays and Saturdays they will be open 24 hours a day. 

Many came to watch the six-race season opener. Chris Kennedy-Engert from Aurora says having the season back is special. 

“Have a lot of friends here, it’s great to come back every live meet and see people that you only see for the three months or so that we race live,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy thinks the casino is set up very nicely.

“It's going to be great to have the purses go up for the horseman I hope to have a horse again, we had one a few years ago and I’d like to give back into the owner part so looking forward to that,” Kennedy said.