By Stephen Lindsley
An afternoon or evening spent at Fairmount Park Racetrack in Collinsville, Ill., is always a special treat. Every year its event staff adds more ways to take advantage of the facility – and the fun – for groups of all sizes. Just minutes from downtown St. Louis, with a sprawling facility and ample free parking, Fairmount Park offers a wide array of event options from ultra-casual to black-tie formal.
A HORSE OF MANY COLORS
The majority of meetings and events at the park take place during the race season, which in 2012 will run from April 1 to September 21, however, the park is open for groups year-round. Races are held on Friday and Saturday nights beginning at 7:30 p.m., plus “Horse Hooky Tuesdays,” when the races begin at 1:00 p.m. In addition, the racetrack is open 7 days a week, with races from around the country simulcast on screens throughout the park. “Every area of the park is family-oriented,” said Nikki Tanner, director of group sales. “We try to offer something for everyone. We have done everything from small meetings with a few tables to a huge swap meet with hundreds of people in the Grandstand Building.”
In-house executive chef Max Lehmann and his kitchen and service staff handle the dining arrangements for events of every description. Many fixed options are available, or a menu can be customized to suit specific needs, with Chef Lehmann’s extensive menu-planning experience as a guide. “Our kitchen prepares everything from gourmet prime rib dinners to hot dogs and fries for team fund raisers,” said Tanner.
SPACE FOR EVERY TASTE
Fairmount Park offers meeting spaces of so many different sizes and configurations that there is no need to compromise on your requirements. From top to bottom there are spaces suited for business, pleasure, and if necessary, a well balanced mix.
We’ll begin at the top:
The Top of the Turf is Fairmount Park’s fine dining restaurant, located on the third floor. The bar area has been renovated, and now includes 38 flat-screen monitors, making it impossible to miss the racing action. A doorway from the bar leads to a recently opened rooftop viewing deck, with a perfect line of sight to the finish line.
Groups of 12 to 25 can have the unique pleasure of dining and watching the races from the Top of the Turf’s plush skyboxes, which are equipped with televisions, though they offer the park’s most commanding view of the track. A sit-down dinner in the skyboxes, with salad, choice of three entrées and dessert, is $27 per person.
A standard buffet for groups of 20 or more can be set up in the Top of the Turf Bar at $20 a person, including a salad, two entrées and two sides. The entire bar area can be reserved for groups of 50 or more.
Alcoholic beverages are not included in the meal prices, but can be added to any package. Options include drink tokens, a liquor tab to a specific dollar amount or running a tab up to a certain race number.
On the second floor is the Black Stallion Buffet, the largest meeting and event space at the park. Decorated in an elegant historic racing theme and featuring a solid wall of windows overlooking the track, the Black Stallion Room is large enough to accommodate up to 400 guests. Well-lit and open, this flexible space is suitable for large business events, wedding parties, office celebrations and more.
For more than 10 years, coach Ed Perniciaro has organized a group event in the Black Stallion Room for St. Mary’s High School coaches, teachers and spouses. “It’s really been a fun annual event with a family atmosphere,” said Perniciaro. We usually have about 35 people, always in the second week in May. Everyone likes the Black Stallion Room. The food and service are always great, and the Fairmount Park staff members are very gracious and accommodating. Our teachers and staff always look forward to the event.”
BUT WAIT… THERE’S MORE!
Located trackside on the first floor is the First Turn Café, which can accommodate groups of 50 to 150 people, with a patio outside for a closer look at the day’s events. Also on the first floor is the Annex, a long, rectangular space that seats 54, with tables for six in the middle and booths for four running down one side. There are more than 20 televisions in the Annex, and each booth has its own 19-inch TV.
Near the patio is the Trackside Pavilion, an outdoor area covered by an awning. The Pavilion features round, glass-topped tables and comfortably seats up to 100 guests.
Set up just outside the clubhouse are two separate beer gardens that regularly host groups of up to 48 each. One of these is covered with a 30’ x 30’ tent to provide a little shade or shelter from the elements.
For a more informal and especially kid-friendly gathering, the Paddock Grill and Café area features picnic benches set near the pony area. Daily beer specials make the Paddock parent-friendly as well.
One common use for the Paddock is team fund raisers, notes Samantha Miller, an event coordinator for the park. Event packages can be arranged for any kind of charitable, nonprofit or sports group. A per-person fee covers the necessary amenities to suit the occasion, and pre-printed tickets that include a charitable donation are provided for fund-raising sales. Although the Paddock is popular with baseball teams, other charitable groups have used the more formal spaces for their fund-raising efforts.
BECOME PART OF THE EXPERIENCE
Special occasions can be made more memorable by sponsoring a Trophy Race for an additional $50. You choose the name of the race, which is engraved on a trophy. Watch the race trackside, and then send four people to the Winner’s Circle to meet the jockey and present the trophy. Included in the package is an 8” x 10” photograph, and the name you choose for the race also will appear in the official program.
Grandstand finish line seating is also available, featuring six 5-seat boxes and 4-seat boxes. Each box is also equipped with a countertop, two televisions and a lamp. If members of your group really want to feel the stamp of the horses’ feet as they cross the finish line, this is an enticing option. MM&E
(Stephen Lindsley is a contributor from St. Louis, Mo.)
Nikki Tanner, Director of Group Sales
Fairmount Park Racetrack
9301 Collinsville Rd.Collinsville, IL 62234
Phone: (618) 345-4300, (314) 436-1516
E-mail: [email protected]
Web Site: www.fairmountpark.com