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APRIL FOOL: Wiener dog racing stadium planned for St. Armands Circle

Dachshunds will soon be dashing around the track as pari-mutuel racing comes to Circle Park.

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  • | 5:00 a.m. April 1, 2024
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Just as the former Sarasota Kennel Club is meeting its fate with an excavator, another form of four-legged pari-mutuel wagering may soon be on its way to Sarasota, specifically to St. Armands Circle.

In 2018, Florida voters approved a referendum banning greyhound racing. They didn’t, however, say anything about dachshund racing. To fill the void, the National Association of Wiener Dog Racing is planning to propose the nation’s first permanent race track to occupy Circle Park. 

Planned is a 500-seat, circular stadium for year-round races surrounding a 100-yard track on which wiener dogs will compete to win, place or show for both the amusement of spectators and the gambling public. 

Although small, the seating bowl in Circle Park provides for an ideal length track for dachshunds.

“Their legs are pretty short and they don’t exactly have a lot of endurance,” said NAWDR spokesman Nathan Franks of the short circular track. 

“Most wiener dog races are on a straightaway, so we think this is an ideal length.”

As an accessory, the NAWDR plans to occupy a nearby boutique retail location for  betting and box office activities, but it also has its eyes on something larger.

“If we can get a very large restaurant space, we can also open a card room with a dedicated space for closed-circuit broadcasting from inside the stadium and from races being held at other locations,” Franks said. 

“We have our eyes on a very large restaurant space very close to the stadium that’s ideal. There is already a great kitchen there to prepare — what else? — hundreds of hot dogs per hour.

“It is our goal to make Sarasota the global headquarters for pari-mutuel wiener dog racing.”

According to NAWDR, dachshunds are deceptively fast despite their short legs. They have been clocked at 25 miles per hour, just more than half the top speed of a greyhound. 

“Getting them to run is easy,” Franks said. “Getting them to run where you want them to run is another matter altogether.”

Bells and whistles

Like greyhound racing, a mechanical lure will be used. Bred to hunt badgers, the dachshunds will chase a stuffed badger that will be mounted on a mechanical arm attached to a track in the center of the circular course.

Starting in Australia in the 1970s, wiener dog racing has spread around the world. Since 1995, the Wienerschnitzel Wiener Nationals have been held every year in Southern California. Franks said the plan is to move that weeklong event, held every December, to the new track at St. Armands Circle.

Franks said the NAWDR is coordinating with Commodore Cruise Lines, which recently announced plans to make Siesta Key a twice-weekly port of call. 

At a minimum, races will be scheduled on days when ships are in port as well as on weekends. 

Hot dogs

Lunch meat giant Oscar Geyser has been signed as the official hot dog of the NAWDR, and as part of the deal, it will provide shuttle service to and from the new Siesta Key cruise ship port in Oscar Geyser Wiener Mobile replica vehicles. 

“Passengers can shop, dine and go to the beach in any of our ports of call,” said Commodore Cruise Lines President and CEO Merrill Stubing. “But where else can you ride in the Wiener Mobile and watch wiener dog racing in the same day?”


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