Fair Grounds Approved for Meet; Partners With 'Habitat'

The Louisiana State Racing Commission unanimously approved Fair Grounds' application to host an 81-day meet in 2006-07.

The meet will be the first live racing to be conducted at Fair Grounds since Hurricane Katrina caused extensive damage to the facility and the city of New Orleans last Aug. 29.

The schedule for Fair Grounds' 135th season of racing begins, as is tradition, Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 23, 2006, and concludes March 25, 2007. Racing will be conducted each Thursday through Sunday, with Mondays added in January and February. Stakes and major events will be announced this summer.

After Katrina ravaged the central Gulf Coast, Fair Grounds was forced to relocate its 2005-06 meet to Harrah's Louisiana Downs in Bossier City. Because of the extraordinary circumstances, state regulators approved an abbreviated 37-day meet, which was conducted from Nov. 19-Jan. 22.

Repairs have been ongoing at Fair Grounds since the fall. The roof of the grandstand and clubhouse was completed March 31 and power was restored to the building several days later. Backstretch maintenance, including repair and replacement of roofs, doors, and stalls, is expected to be completed in time for the start of the 2006-07 meet.

The first event scheduled to be held at Fair Grounds since Katrina is the annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, which begins April 28. Much of the repair and restoration efforts will pause until after Jazz Fest.

With the approval of dates and the restoration of the facility in progress, the next challenge for Fair Grounds is the same of virtually every business in the New Orleans area – securing the services of several hundred employees to work at the live meet.

Fair Grounds also announced a partnership with Habitat for Humanity to assist in bringing another family back home following Hurricane Katrina. Fair Grounds and its parent company, Churchill Downs Inc., will fund construction of a "house in a box." In addition to the financial support, Fair Grounds employees will assist in construction of the house.

"We know the housing situation is important to everyone in the New Orleans area," Fair Grounds president and general manager Randy Soth said. "We are pleased to be able to give back to the community."

Fair Grounds' community relations department will coordinate all aspects of the partnership with Habitat for Humanity. Habitat for Humanity rxecutive firector Jim Pate was on hand for the April 25 announcement.