I-30 Speedway owners announced today that the dirt auto racing track will transform over the next year into a Shetland pony horse race track with adjoining gaming center.
The move comes after increasing noise complaints during racing season and declining attendance. The $100,000 renovation will begin immediately and will open in time for the 2015 Shetland racing season.
“We realized that we cannot continue to race loud Sprint and IMCA cars at the track and be good neighbors. However our heart is still very much with racing,” I-30 Speedway operator Doug Barnes tells us. “Unfortunately Oaklawn has a monopoly on horse racing, and Southland Park has the same on dog racing. So we decided to race Shetland ponies. I am fairly certain no one around is doing that.”
Shetland pony racing is common in the UK, but only raced a few times a year in special events in the US. The new racetrack will be the first racing center dedicated exclusively to Shetland pony racing in the US, and expects to draw dozens of tourist to the track on the Pulaski County/Saline County line. The ponies will feature child jockeys between the ages of 5-8.
Expected renovations include sign changes along with stables under the main bleachers for the ponies. The gaming center will take over the space currently used as the outfield for the cars.
“We are really excited about the gaming center, now people do not have to drive all the way to Hot Springs to play games of skill,” Barnes tells us. “We are a little short on cash though to start with, so we had to settle for a metal building to start. We will feature popular games such as Pick a number between 1-10, coin toss, rock paper scissors, guess which hand, and go fish.”
Racetrack officials tell us they have not settled on a name, but are strongly considering “The Big Shetty Racetrack at I-30”.