Fonner Park in Grand Island Closes Because of Coronavirus Concerns

March 17, 2020, 1:38 p.m. ·


The closure of Fonner Park along with horse races in Grand Island, as a preventative measure due to coronavirus, have caused uncertainty in the central Nebraska community.

Horse races were conducted as normal last weekend at Fonner Park in Grand Island, along with a ramped up cleaning plan at the park. Chris Kotulak CEO of Fonner Park says they were planning to go through with racing on a week-by-week basis. However on Monday Grand Island mayor Roger Steele suspended live racing at Fonner Park.

“That's not just our horse racing,” Kotoulak said. “That's the Heartland Event Center with all of the events that we have scheduled that are now being canceled. The influx of tourism into the city, the hotel, the food and beverage, the fuel that people buy, all of that tax revenue is gone now with the cancellation of these events.”

On top of lost revenue for the Grand Island Economy, Kotoulak says there are hundreds of seasonal workers who will experience lost wages by the close down. This includes workers in admissions, food and beverage, security and horsemen who would be racing.

Brad Mellema is the executive director for the Grand Island Convention and Visitors Bureau. He says Fonner Park is a big part of the Grand Island economy.

“It's a big V-8 engine of tourism for our community and we try to keep that gas tank full, because when Fonner is full, our community is full. The hotels are full, the restaurants are full and the shopping is full. I look outside the day and the roads are eerily quiet. That means commerce isn't happening dollars aren't changing hands and that's going to have an immediate impact on tourism and hospitality in this community.”

Mellema says it’s too early to tell what the long-term impacts will be for closing of Fonner Park.

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