Park District, Speedway should take lead to ban smoking

Many communities across the United States have banned smoking in public places. Sometime soon, the citizens of Winnebago County may be asked to decide whether to go smoke free.

You may be asking yourself why a sports columnist would be writing about the smoking issue. Allow me to explain.

As a non-smoker, and one who believes secondhand smoke is harmful, I would like to see two area organizations responsible for sports venues—the Rockford Park District and Rockford Speedway—take the lead on this issue.

I think the Rockford Park District should ban smoking on their golf courses. Part of their purpose, as stated on their Web site, “is to provide a recreation system that provides for the health, well-being and entertainment of their citizens.”

I think it is in direct conflict to allow golfers to smoke while using the District’s courses. Not only is smoking a health hazard, I also hate walking along the fairways and greens on what otherwise would be a perfectly maintained course, and seeing all the cigarette butts.

If they truly want to provide a system that promotes health, the District’s five-member Board of Commissioners—Harris Agnew, Douglas Brooks, Charlotte Hackin, Nate Martin and Laura Pigatti Williamson—should make this issue a priority at their next meeting.

My own employer, the Rockford Speedway, should also follow the proposed smoking ban. I am continuously astonished by the number of people who smoke while sitting in the stands. They seem to have very little regard for anyone sitting near them, including young children.

At the risk of alienating myself from our fans who smoke, I would like to encourage Rockford Speedway General Manager Greg McKarns and Owner Jody Deery to adopt a no smoking policy in the stands prior to our next event. If the stands were to become smoke-free, any fan who wished to have a cigarette could go to the bar area.

The MetroCentre has had a no smoking policy in effect for years, and it obviously has worked. I’ve seen numerous fans standing outside in sub-zero weather puffing away on their cigarettes during breaks at IceHogs and Lightning games.

If you agree with my call for a no smoking policy on our golf courses and at the Rockford Speedway, I urge you to call both locations and let them know. The Park District’s number is 987-8800 and the Speedway’s is 633-1500.

Many smokers feel this is an infringement on their rights. I think their rights cease to exist when their scientifically proven dangerous smoke infiltrates the relatively clean air the rest of us are trying to breathe.

Doug Halberstadt is a local resident and is track announcer at Rockford Speedway. He can be reached via e-mail at

From the July 19-25, 2006, issue

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