First Phase of Philly Park Renovation Nearly Complete

The first phase of a multimillion-dollar renovation to the grandstand in anticipation of slot machines is nearly complete at Philadelphia Park.

The third floor of the track that opened in 1974 hasn't been used in years. It will reopen to the public July 19 and will host most of the track's racing and simulcast operations. The first two floors of the grandstand, where racing operations have been concentrated, will be closed and refurbished to accomomdate the initial wave of gaming devices.

In a joint statement prepared by Bob Green, chairman and president of Greenwood Racing, and Hal Handel, the company's chief executive officer, the move to the third floor is described as "enabling us to begin the transformation of the first two floors of the grandstand into a temporary home for our proposed casino operations." The construction is expected to "last well into the fall," according to the statement.

Greenwood officials have cited the construction as its reason for canceling this year's Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II), which had been scheduled for Labor Day.

More than $5 million was spent to remodel the third floor, which had been closed to the public for more than 10 years, except on days that attracted exceptionally large crowds. It has been designed with a new terrace restaurant and handicapping areas that feature new flat-screen televisions and a bar.

The picnic grove, grandstand apron, paddock, and horsemen's box area will remain open during construction. Officials said they hope to keep the inconvenience to the public to a minumum.

Philly Park and other Pennsylvania racetracks are awaiting temporary slots licenses. They could come early this fall.