Bay Meadows Demolition OK'd; New Site Sought

The San Mateo, Calif., City Council has approved a developer's plan to demolish Bay Meadows racetrack, while an earlier announcement the track's landowner is seeking a new site for a racino in the outer Bay Area was met with skepticism by opponents.

The council took its action Nov. 7. It could three to five years before the circa-1934 track is demolished, and racing would continue until that time, officials said.

Responding to reports prior to the vote that the property's owner was seeking to relocate the track elsewhere, Donna Bischoff, whose group "Save Bay Meadows" has fought the plan, expressed doubt.

"Yes, I believe this is just more game playing on the part of the Bay Meadows Land Co.," she said. "There was some concern expressed by our city council for the welfare of the hundreds of Bay Meadows employees who will be put out of work, so I'm assuming this search for a new home for Bay Meadows is meant to ameliorate those concerns."

After two all-night public sessions, the San Mateo City Council voted for the 83-acre development--a retail, housing, and office village complex next to a Caltrain transportation line.

Real estate broker Collier International said it has been retained by Bay Meadows Land Co. to locate cheaper land on the outskirts of the Bay Area whose populace would support a racing facility with expanded gaming were it approved by the state legislature. San Mateo elected officials are opposed to slot machines in the bayside city. So even with enabling legislation, Bay Meadows would likely not benefit, a company spokesman said.

"We've been looking for some time for other locations," Adam Alberti said. "We've retained Colliers because it is very good at this sort of thing. We're looking at alternative sites on the outskirts of the Bay Area, property that is cheaper and more conducive to racetrack operations."

He said Bay Meadows Land Co. would be willing to commit a lengthy process, even up to 10 years, to build a new track while continuing to work on legislative efforts to expand gaming beyond the current tribal monopoly in the state.

"That's our gamble," Alberti said. He noted that when the company purchased Hollywood Park for nearly $260 million recently, legislators were alerted that racing could only survive if it gets additional gaming rights.

"We are in the racing business," Alberti said. "We like being in it. But in order to make it work, we are pursuing expanded gaming solutions."

He said the company "is wide open in our thought" as to an eventual site and expects to encounter cynicism and opposition.