Q-Racing Blog: Ruidoso Landscape Change

Look to the east - Ruidoso has a new and important landmark.

Look to the east - Ruidoso has a new and important landmark.

There is a change in the Ruidoso Downs landscape of Biblical proportions. Literally.

Pull into the Ruidoso Downs parking lot and look east. You can’t miss the change. There is now a new, 8,640-square-foot chapel open for services every Sunday at 10:25 a.m. It may be the largest chapel at any track in the United States, with seating for up to 300 people.

“I felt right away that this is building the ministry for the future,” said chaplain Darrell Winter. “This is an opportunity to build a first-class facility that can be used for many, many years to support the community of the backstretch, as well as the workers on the front side. We’ve been blessed beyond measure by the generosity of people in this industry, and I look forward to many years of service and the future of the chaplaincy here at Ruidoso Downs.”

Aside from the sanctuary, which has a multipurpose capability, there is a wide-reaching children’s program that fulfills the kid’s spiritual, intellectual and physical needs. There is a kitchen at the back of the sanctuary to help with meals served in the sanctuary area. One of the highlights is a prayer room alongside the main entrance that is open every hour of every day.

“We have been a model program,” said Winter. “There are, of course, other chaplaincies that do wonderful work and some of them have facilities. But, most of the time, they are relegated to sharing a kitchen facility or just off to the side, not front and center, so I would encourage the chaplains across the country. There are people who want to see the program grow and they’ll get behind you.”

The Ruidoso Downs racetrack chaplaincy has grown over the 18 years of Winter’s role as chaplain

“I started out in a little room, 30 by 25, and we had eight people,” said Winter. “I was a ski instructor in the winter and had other activities. It just kept expanding from that first year until they finally said the track kitchen can be turned over into the chapel. That started the expansion ever since.”

Winter worked on the former track kitchen and it expanded as the ministry grew.

Then one of the new owners of Ruidoso Downs, Stan Sigman, stepped forward.

“Stan Sigman approached me and he made it the first step of this ownership to put God first, and one of our first steps is to get this chapel off the ground,” said Winter.

“When he said that, I thought, ‘I don’t want to move. I like my little old building,’ ” said Winter with a laugh. “That’s a selfish view. I did feel that way, but with an outward-looking vision, I realized that this is going to open more opportunities.”

Winter looks at a bright future.

“I see the involvement of more people in the ministry to where we can improve the ratio of those wanting to help to those needing the help,” said Winter. “I don’t necessarily mean they are down and out. They’re making money at the racetrack. But, the encouragement that can be given, the coming alongside people is just a great opportunity for ministry.”

The 10-month program to build the chapel has changed the Ruidoso Downs spiritual landscape and is destined to bless many souls for many years.

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