Fairplex Campaigns for Expansion
by Jack Shinar
Date Posted: 12/16/2007 5:30:32 PM
Last Updated: 12/18/2007 1:23:40 PM

Artist Depiction of proposed track expansions at Fairplex Park.
Photo: Froelich, Kow & Gong Architects, Inc.
Encouraged by a positive reception from industry representatives, Fairplex Park is pressing forward with plans to turn its Los Angeles County Fair Grounds racing facility into a year-round training grounds for up to 2,200 horses.

The expansion project at the Pomona, Calif., facility is estimated at $40 million, including a turf course that could be installed in time for the 2010 Fairplex racing season. Construction on the rest of it could begin this fall if a funding mechanism can be agreed upon, said Jim Henwood, chief executive officer. The fair would continue to host an annual 16-day summer racing program.

The Fairplex oval would be expanded from five furlongs to a mile. A 7 1/2-furlong turf course that could accommodate races of up to 1 1/16 miles with an infield chute is also in the plans. The barn area would be greatly expanded from its current capacity of 1,300 horses.

"We're not just talking about expanding the track to one mile," Henwood said. "We would be rebuilding it. We want to develop a comprehensive training center."

Henwood said it would be patterned after Palm Meadows, the Magna Entertainment-owned year-round training facility in Palm Beach County, Fla.

He said a Dec. 10 meeting at Fairplex, which is 20 miles east of Santa Anita Park, with 33 industry officials went well, although funding for the project was not discussed. Henwood said financing would have to come from racing sources.

"This is something the industry has expressed a serious interest in," Henwood said. "Given the strong sentiment for it, there should be a means to get that done."

He said the Los Angeles County Fair board of directors has given preliminary support, authorizing funds for the initial plans. Expansion of the Fairplex track from its bullring dimensions has been discussed since the 1990s, Henwood added.

Threatened with the possible closure of Hollywood Park, which is committed to racing at its Inglewood facility only through 2008, the Fairplex proposal would provide racing with a solution for an alternative training site in Los Angeles. The one-mile main track could be ready in time for Fairplex's August 2009 season, Henwood said.

Even if Hollywood continues to race, Henwood said the Fairplex facility "would make Southern California more of an attraction for out-of-state Thoroughbreds, especially with our 2-year-old program."

Los Alamitos has proposed a $40 million expansion plan of its Orange County facility as a potential replacement for Hollywood Park, although its stabling capacity would be less than Hollywood's. Henwood said that if Hollywood was no longer operating, it was possible that Fairplex could also seek additional dates once the expansion was completed.

"That would be three to four years out if Hollywood Park were to close," he said.


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