Hollywood to Race in 2009, CHRB Assured
During a brief progress report on the immediate future of racing in California, track president Jack Liebau assured the board that Hollywood Park intends to run through at least the 2009 spring/summer season, provided the track is awarded its traditional racing dates.
Unable to dent tribal casino control of Las Vegas-style gaming in the state, Hollywood's property owner, Bay Meadows Land Company, has moved forward with plans for redeveloping the 237-acre site.
Craig Fravel, executive vice president of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club speaking for a committee of industry stake holders in Southern California, said that if Hollywood Park were to suspend racing before the fall 2009 meet, those dates would be assigned to Fairplex.
Fravel added that legislation providing a mechanism to help pay for a proposed $75 million expansion plan to make Fairplex a year-round training facility suitable for extended racing is in the works but needs action during the current session.
"The industry has coalesced around Fairplex as the replacement for Hollywood Park," he told the board during the CHRB meeting held at the Alameda County Fair's simulcast wagering facility. He said a race dates plan for 2009 would be submitted soon, including a contingency plan without Hollywood Park in the fall.
Northern California representatives, working on a plan to fund a $47 million expansion at the Alameda County Fair racing complex in Pleasanton, submitted a draft racing date calendar for 2009-11 that does not include Bay Meadows. The proposed calendars call for most of the region's racing to take place at Golden Gate Fields -- 149 days in 2009, 148 in 2010 and 147 in 2011. Golden Gate would also host 35-day meets for Pleasanton while that track's stabling facility, track surface and grandstand are refurbished over the three-year period. The county fair circuit in the north would take on a 70-day block of racing dates, with the exact assignment of venues to be determined.
Liebau, also the president at Bay Meadows, told the board that race dates for 2009 would not be requested and termination letters have been sent to employees of the 74-year-old San Mateo track. Bay Meadows Land plans to demolish the track later this year to make way for redevelopment.
Consideration of proposals to help fund soft costs for the expansion projects at Fairplex and Pleasanton through a 1% increase in takeout during the California fair racing season was withdrawn from the agenda. At its meeting a month ago, board members expressed several reservations about the plan for funding the Pleasanton project. Celebrating its 150th anniversary this month, Pleasanton is the nation's oldest one-mile racetrack.
Instead, Christopher Korby, executive director of the California Authority of Racing Fairs, said that a separate funding bill is being drafted for introduction in the state legislature later this year that would create "the necessary improvements to make (the track) a first rate facility." He said later that the new measure would likely include a takeout increase.
Cliff Goodrich, consultant for Fairplex, provided a written progress report to the board following meetings with Southern California industry members. In the report, he said the expanded use of Fairplex would be "contingent upon financing and business arrangements being put in place to secure expansion for a period of up to 30 years." In addition to an increase in stabling capacity, the plan calls for the addition of a synthetic racing surface oval of nearly one mile, a 7/8-mile inner turf course and a five-furlong training track. Home to the Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona, Fairplex, which hosts the Los Angeles County Fair race meet, currently has only a 5/8-mile dirt track.
Goodrich said that the current plan to replace Hollywood would increase barn capacity at Fairplex from 1,300 to 2,200 new stalls with more space available if needed. Racing would need to make better use of stables at San Luis Rey Downs and Los Alamitos Race Course, which would have about 700 stalls available if it took on Thoroughbred racing dates in the future. Del Mar would be used as an emergency stabling site while the Fairplex expansion is under construction.
"Should Hollywood Park cease racing, all of the above alternatives would lead to permanent stall capacities ranging from approximately 4.700 to 5,400 approved Thoroughbreds -- very similar to current levels," Goodrich wrote in his board report. The committee, he stressed, believes that the Fairplex plan needs to move forward on a training facility even if Hollywood should decide to continue racing.
The absence of racing at Hollywood would be addressed by adding dates for Santa Anita, Oak Tree, Del Mar and Fairplex and bringing Los Alamitos into the picture, he said.
Efforts are being made to "secure tax-exempt financing" through a joint powers agreement while funding sources are also being pursued, including new legislation, Goodrich wrote.
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