BY WALLCE CLARK/GAZETTE WRITER
RIVER CITIES GAZETTE
The City of Miami Springs was well represented at a private party to celebrate the opening of Hialeah Park Casino on Friday evening, Aug. 30.
Showing support for the new gambling establishment were Miami Springs City Manager Ron Gorland, Mayor Zavier Garcia and council members Jaime Petralanda, Mike Windrem and Billy Bain. Windrem and Garcia sported pink guayaberas in honor of the track’s famous flamingo population.
Rounding out the celebrity guest list was Hialeah Park owners John Brunetti Sr. and his son, John Brunetti Jr.; Grammy-winning Latin singer Willy Chirino (who performed Saturday night) and his wife Lissette, also a popular singer; retired NBC-6 anchor Tony Segreto; former local newscaster Rick Sanchez; Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez; Medley Councilman Jack Morrow; and many others.
In its heyday, Hialeah Park was a world-renowned horse racetrack and is still a must-visit historic structure. Once threatened to be razed, the park was resurrected by John Brunetti Sr. and the casino is destined to ensure the success of the grand racetrack.
“I’ve been coming here since the age of 10,” Garcia said. “My dad used to come here and play the horses. He taught me how to study the horses and track conditions. But I don’t play the horses now, I’m a poker man.”
Garcia said the casino has already benefited several Miami Springs businesses.
“We’ve heard that some of the hotels have booked people for the grand opening of the casino this weekend,” Garcia said. “There isn’t another casino of this magnitude in this area, so our city will benefit.”
Well-traveled newscaster Rick Sanchez said he is quite familiar with Miami Springs.
“I recently drove through the Springs and had fond thoughts of what a wonderful place it is,” said Sanchez. “It’s one of the cradles of South Florida. When you walk the golf course, you feel that you’re in South Florida, unlike other courses where you feel like you could be anywhere in the country. I love the homes and the Circle, and there are the memories. You feel like you could be sitting there having a beer with (Springs native and NFL Hall of Fame member) Ted Hendricks. You go through Miami Springs and it tugs at your heart.”
Councilman Jaime Petralanda lived near the track when he was a child and recalled visiting Hialeah Park.
“We used to come here and look at the flamingos,” said Petralanda. “I think a lot of people will want to stay in the Springs and visit the casino.”
Morrow said, “I think this whole thing is great. I’m not a gambler but I told Mr. Brunetti he should open an Italian restaurant here because everyone likes Italian food.”
Windrem said, “I had dinner here Monday night and the lobster and linguini was very good. I’m not a gambler but I might do some poker later.”
Gorland, said. “This absolutely will help Miami Springs. People are already booking rooms at hotels on 36th Street. I’ll certainly be coming to the restaurant here, and they put on a lot of events with great bands.”
When asked if the City of Miami Springs would bus seniors to the casino, Gorland said, “Probably not.”