Oaklawn Park bugler Chris Holt played “Call to the Post” on Wednesday, April 21, a day without live racing at the track. Instead of summoning Thoroughbreds, he ushered in a new era at the grand opening of the more than $100-million expansion project at the Hot Springs, Ark. track that includes a hotel, spa, event center, and new dining options.
Louis Cella, president of Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort, stated that the driving force behind the project was to increase Oaklawn’s position as a national leader in the Thoroughbred industry. Oaklawn was founded by the Cella family, and Louis is the fourth generation to be at the helm.
“When my family started Oaklawn 117 years ago, we focused on two things: quality and class,” Cella said. “That has been our compass.”
The Hotel at Oaklawn is eight stories tall and has 198 rooms, including two presidential suites. Guests staying on the track side can watch morning training or afternoon races from their rooms. The accommodations include luxury linens and large-screen televisions.
The Astral Spa features needle showers, which are representative of the iconic Bathhouse Row in Hot Springs National Park; an infrared sauna; and a Himalayan salt wall.
Several new food and beverage venues have opened, including The Bugler, which is a signature fine-dining restaurant, and the First Turn Bar, both of which overlook the track. Both settings host guests during live racing.
Throughout the complex, touches in décor reflect the racing industry, Hot Springs, and Arkansas. Racing trophies and memorabilia primarily donated by Dash Goff, whose father, Gene, bred and owned Nodouble, as well as some from the Cella family’s collection are displayed in the lobby and around the entrance to The Bugler.
Cella said his wife, Rochelle, devoted a large portion of her time to selecting the designs, colors, and styles. He lovingly referred to the resort as “Hotel Rochelle.”
Oaklawn General Manager Wayne Smith, said: "You'll find that throughout the whole facility that racing is in some way, shape, or form involved in the design, and what we want people to recognize is we are a racetrack first, and then we are a hotel and casino next."
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson complimented Oaklawn on the “sense of excellence in everything you do here.”
“We now have the number one entertainment venue for racetracks in the United States of America,” Hutchinson said.
In the first phase of the project, an expanded gaming center opened in 2020. It added 1,500 slot machines, 33 gaming tables, and a high-limits area.