Gulfstream Park has set aside eight months— from April to November 2013—as its timetable for a massive redevelopment in which it will add two sections of grandstand seating, two track-side hotels, and a stand-alone casino building.
Gulfstream plans to start and finish the project during what it expects will be its non-racing months in 2013, the Hallandale Beach, Fla., track’s president Tim Ritvo told The Blood-Horse Nov. 19.
“We will start construction April 6, the day after we end our meet (2012-13),” Ritvo said. “We plan to be done by Dec. 1, when we begin our 2013-14 meet.”
Gulfstream will open its 2012-13 meet Dec. 1—one day after neighbor Calder Casino & Race Course ends its meet.
Ritvo said Gulfstream and its parent Stronach Group are planning for the 2013-14 meet to be the first in which Gulfstream has year-round racing. Earlier this year, he said Gulfstream feels it needs to expand beyond its current four-month racing schedule to increase revenues at the track and the adjacent The Village at Gulfstream Park mall that Stronach Group owns.
Frank Stronach is chairman of Aurora, Ont.-based Stronach Group and of Gulfstream.
Calder has traditionally held southeast Florida Thoroughbred racing from mid-April through November. Calder is in Miami Gardens, eight miles west of Gulfstream.
Gulfstream’s construction plan indicates it will not attempt to maneuver any 2013 dates from Calder. Following a dispute in early 2011, Calder swapped December to Gulfstream in return for three weeks in April. Florida’s Thoroughbred tracks select their own race dates with almost automatic approval by the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering. Ritvo declined to talk about racing dates or other issues related to Calder, which is owned by Churchill Downs Inc.
Concerning Gulfstream’s development project, he reiterated that a central goal is to have a facility with enough seating and amenities to be a host for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships.
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Gulfstream has held the Breeders’ Cup three times, most recently in 1999. Gulfstream tore down its long-standing grandstand/clubhouse, with more than 30,000 seats, following its 2004 meet. It held its 2005 meet amid construction, while providing tent-like accommodations for fans. The racing/casino building that Gulfstream opened in 2006 has about 1,000 grandstand seats facing the track and several hundred track-facing seats in its restaurants.
The expanded facility would have about 52,000 seats, including those in the restaurants and hotels.
Ritvo said Gulfstream is not ready to announce the cost of the new project or the name of the developer it has chosen. Gulfstream’s design plan, shown by Ritvo Nov. 9, has one hotel about a furlong before the finish line and another about the same distance beyond it. Each would have about 270 rooms facing the track.
One new grandstand would begin at the end of the final turn and extend southward to the hotel. The other grandstand would extend from the south side of the straightaway into the first turn. A new casino building would be adjacent to the south side of the racing building. Two parking garages, adjacent to the new grandstands, also would be built.
The amount of space where fans watch races near the rail would not be reduced, Ritvo said.
The simulcast rooms, two casino rooms, and several restaurants will remain open in Gulfstream’s building during the construction.
“We are confident there will be only limited inconvenience to our patrons,” Ritvo said. “We learned from what we did before, and are prepared.”
For 2012-13, Gulfstream is adding 26 boxes with six seats each at the front of its grandstand near the finish line. Ritvo said horsemen and other parties can contact the track’s administrative office for information on seasonal lease rates.
Gulfstream’s 2012-13 season runs 90 days from Dec. 1 through April 5.