Work is in full swing on more than $30 million of renovations and improvements to Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J., as the shore oval prepares not only for its 62nd season of racing, but to host the Breeders' Cup World Championships set for Oct. 27.
"There's quite a big list of things going on right now," said Robert J. Kulina, vice president and general manager of Monmouth. "This is a huge project, but yet fun for somebody like me that's been here my whole life. These will also be permanent capital improvements that we expect to last the next 25 years."Among the projects now currently underway are:
* Replacement of all elevators and escalators in the grandstand and clubhouse;
* A complete renovation of the Patio Terrace, located on the first-floor clubhouse level, which Kulina said will have an "off-track wagering feel" when complete and will feature more than 8,000 square feet for simulcasting, a bar, and small VIP areas;
* The construction of a permanent tent structure for groups on top of the new Patio Terrace, featuring what Kulina described as "the greatest view at Monmouth for live racing";
* Work to fully enclose the formerly open-air first-floor clubhouse area, up to and including the area in the tunnel, for air-conditioning;
* Renovating every dining facility with new furniture, new televisions and new decor;
* The removal of the Olympic-sized swimming pool for the jockeys, which was installed in 1946 by former track president Amory L. Haskell. "It was totally shot," said Kulina, who added that a new double-decker tent for the Breeders' Cup will be built in its place and have views of the paddock;
* Permanent infrared heat lamps for the Parterre Boxes, the open-air, rooftop luxury suites that overlook the first turn;
* Expansion of the picnic area, located off the grandstand side of the building, by nearly 40%;
* Expansion of the winner's circle* A new sound system throu;ghout the grandstand and clubhouse ("Long overdue," said Kulina);
* A major renovation of the pressbox;
* Major electrical work to portions of the barn area, carpentry and painting on nearly all barns, plus the final touches on a quarantine facility for the Breeders' Cup;* A newly landscaped infield, done with the assistance of the N. J. State Agricultural Dept. and with the cooperation of N.J. growers.
Despite all the improvements, Kulina said that it was the goal of the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority to maintain the old track's charm.
"We're trying to keep it looking like Monmouth Park, because Monmouth Park is still a gem," said Kulina.