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Former Louisville Downs exec Dale Owens dies

January 13, 2018

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Former Louisville Downs executive Dale Edward Owens, 67, of  Louisville, Ky., died Thursday, Jan. 11.  Mr. Owens was an influential figure in Louisville professional sports for nearly four decades. After graduating from the University of Kentucky in 1975, he became the Assistant to the President of William H. King Enterprises and Marketing Director of Louisville Downs harness track, serving as the right-hand man to legendary sports promoter Bill King. In that capacity, Mr. Owens ran Louisville Downs. During Mr. Owens’ tenure at Louisville Downs, the track became the first in North America to televise its races live and accept telephone wagering.
In 1986, Mr. Owens received the John Hervey Award from the U.S. Trotting Association for writing and producing Pompano Harness Weekly, judged the best harness racing television production that year.

He also promoted professional motorcycle races across the country and managed the Louisville Sport, Boat and Vacation Show.

In 1987, Mr. Owens became the general manager of the Louisville Red Birds Triple-A baseball team (now the Louisville Bats). During his 26 years in that role, Mr. Owens was instrumental in creating an affordable, family-friendly experience at the ballpark. In 1994, the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues honored him as the American Association Executive of the Year.

Mr. Owens also helped bring professional hockey back to Louisville in 1995, managing the RiverFrogs concurrently with the baseball team for three years. He spearheaded the baseball team's move from Cardinal Stadium to Louisville Slugger Field in the late 1990s, which was a catalyst for the revitalization of Downtown Louisville.

A lifelong music fan, Mr. Owens also promoted concerts for acts such as Emmylou HarrisJimmy BuffettWillie Nelsonthe Beach BoysWilcoMy Morning Jacket, and Arcade Fire.

Throughout his life, Mr. Owens served as a friend and mentor to countless people. Later in life he became an avid runner, completing nine marathons, including Boston, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Paris.

He is survived by his wife Jane and his three children, Annie, Zachary, and Molly; two sisters Patty and Bonnie; and a brother, Gary, a former harness racing official.

A memorial service celebrating Mr. Owens’ life will be held at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 16, at The Henry Clay, 604 S. 3rd Street, in Louisville. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Louisville Public Media.
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