Aksarben Horse Racing Track in Nebraska
Aksarben closed in 1995
Aksarben (also Ak-Sar-Ben) made a spectacular entrance to the racing industry on 14 September 1920 when the track was opened with four amazing days of horse racing. There were roughly 8,500 people in attendance and the horse race was followed by a day of auto racing that continued to draw huge crowds. When you consider that Aksarben has survived a ban on pari-mutuel betting between 1929 and 1935 as well as the WW II national ban on horse racing, you start to see that Aksarben truly is an amazing racetrack.
Despite all these setbacks, Aksarben was rated the sixth most popular horseracing track in the country in 1984 and at around this time it was never short of either races or patrons. The complex was originally built as an indoor arena and horse racing complex and the arena could seat about 7,200 people. The track was built some nine years before the arena was completed, yet both have been used extensively. It is interesting to note that the complex was built to help generate funds for the philanthropic activities of the Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben. The name ‘Aksarben’ may sound somewhat unusual but it is simply Nebraska spelt backwards.
Unfortunately, this great horseracing complex in Omaha, Nebraska, ceased to host horse races in 1995. The ice rink and concert arena at Aksarben Coliseum was in use for roughly 70 years. During the time it was open to the public, the complex hosted rodeos, livestock shows, 4-H events, concerts, coronation parades, ice-hockey matches, ice-skating shows, basketball, indoor soccer and, of course, horse races. It even spent a time acting as an air-field during WWII. It saw the likes of Metallica, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera as well as a whole host of brilliant performers from the past.
Shortly after its closure in 1995, a portion of the property was sold with noble intentions. In early 2005 the remaining buildings and grandstand were torn down to make way for a new commercial, retail and residential development which will be called Aksarben Village. It is regrettable that many of the racing legends who carved a place for themselves on this track will likely be forgotten along with the track itself. Aksarben racetrack truly will be a great loss to the racing community.