Rillito Raceway Park for 2011 season

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TUCSON, Ariz. -- For a while the odds of Tucson's Rillito Racetrack surviving another season didn't look too good.

Pima County had planned to replace the historic raceway with soccer fields, but this weekend the 2011 season returned as strong as ever.

A crowd made its way into the Rillito Park Racetrack for the start of the 2011 season, some people hoping to win a little cash.

"We get excited when the ones we pick win," said Jamie Delgado of Tucson.

Others just there for the family fun and a Tucson winter time tradition.

"I've been coming here probably since I was 3 years old with my grandfather, he used to race here," said Yvette Rodriguez of Tucson.

In 2010 though many race-goers feared they might not be back to their beloved track.

Pima County was looking at turning it into an 83-acre soccer complex, and the Pima County Horsemen's Associaiton.  The non-profit that runs the track, wasn't sure it would get the money to keep it going.

"Ya know a lot of people look forward to this every year and for them to do away with it.  We weren't happy to see it go," said Rodriguez.

But a couple of months ago the county and association came to an agreement.  The track signed a four year lease with Pima County.

This year rent costs $6,500 and it will increase by $2,500 every year.

"We are very happy that a compromised is reached and racing is going on this year," said Tom Moulton of the Pima County Economic Development and Tourism Director.

"It's very exciting," said Racetrack General Manager Patricia White.  "Theres so many people that come here and everybody's so happy and we're just glad to be here."

The Pima County Horsemen's Association gets all of its money from simulcasts at offtrack betting parlors and track admission fees.

This season it expects about 5,000 people, all hoping to win big and watch the horses race here in winters to come.

"Lot's of winning and good times," said Yvette Rodriguez.

The Pima County Horsemen's Association hopes to sign another lease when four years is up.

If not, there has also been talk of re-locating the track to the Pima County Fairgrounds in a few years.