The reminders of AKsarben's glory days--photos of past winners, racing programs, and even the scale used to weigh jockeys before races--will be among the items up for auction on May 30 and 31 in Omaha, Neb. The grandstand is still in place, but AKsarben has not hosted racing since 1995. The 70-acre facility has essentially been dormant since September when a local hockey team played its last game at the coliseum on the same property.
"We really have not been operating as a facility since last September, and have no intent of operating again, so the decision was made to dispose of the personal property," said Leslie Douglas, the CEO of the AKsarben Future Trust, a seven-member board that manages the property on behalf of Douglas County.
This auction includes everything from the remaining 4,000 grandstand seats to the plates used to serve the meals in the track's dining rooms. A full listing of all the items in the auction, which is being handled by Kent and Gabe Petersen Auctioneers can be viewed at http://www.auctionbill.com/5-31aksarben.html.
Some of the items might hold more value with the possibility of a 12th Triple Crown winner hanging in the balance. Omaha, the second Triple Crown winner in 1935, was buried at the racetrack in 1959. A 60-inch painting of the horse on suede, which formerly hung in the Turf Room, is among the auction items.
"I think this is the beginning of the end," said Dennis Lee, chairman of the Nebraska Racing Commission. "I think the next thing to do would be to decide what to do with the grandstand. The biggest problem is that these facilities were built in the 1930s and they are chock full of asbestos."
Since AKsarben ceased operation as a racetrack, portions of its 355 acres have been sold to First Data Resources, which now has a professional park nearby, and to the University of Nebraska at Omaha, which built dormitories and a soccer field where the track's barns once stood. However, the grandstand has never been dismantled.
Potential development on the site often leads to questions about Omaha's remains. According to Lee, who spent many years working at the track, the horse was buried, with a marker, near the east end of the grandstand. When the clubhouse was constructed on top of that area in 1974, the horse's remains were not moved, but the marker was relocated to another spot on the property known as the "Circle of Champions," where it is today.
Douglas said although plans for the 70 remaining acres of AKsarben are unclear, "I think the intent of the board is to leave the Circle of Champions and hopefully whatever would develop here would develop around it. I believe the board is committed to try to preserve it in some way."