Dixon Downs On Track, Official Tells Planners

Four years after it was first proposed, Magna Entertainment's $250 million dream track for Northern California is finally nearing the public hearing stage. A series of meetings on various aspects of the development will be held in 2005, a Dixon city official said at a planning commission meeting Dec. 21.

"Over the next six, seven, eight months, it will really take shape and get up to speed," city economic development director Marshall Drack said. "No racetrack has been built in California in almost 70 years and none under the environmental review process. So, we're right on the cutting edge."

Drack "set the stage for what's to come" for the planning commission of this small community located about 20 miles west of Sacramento. The next few months will focus on familiarizing city officials and the public with the two-phase project. The first phase includes a state-of-the-art Thoroughbred racetrack and training facility for 1,600 horses with a grandstand pavilion that doubles as an entertainment center. The second phase features a one million square-foot upscale commercial complex that forms a gateway to the track.

After first testing the waters in Dixon in 2000, Magna bought the 260-acre site adjacent to Interstate 80 in 2001. At an October 2003 public hearing, the company officially rolled out its plans after numerous revisions. Since then, Magna and city representatives have been working through the complex entitlement process.

Dixon Downs would become the largest employer in Dixon, which has about 20,000 residents. Currently, Wal-Mart and a tomato-canning factory vie for that distinction.

Due to the complexity of the project, it will be broken into logical segments for Dixon's planning commission and city council to review, Drack said. Coming soon will be a traffic study followed by several others including the draft environmental impact report.

In the months ahead, city officials plan to visit existing Magna tracks to get an idea of what to expect. In California, Magna owns Santa Anita Park and Golden Gate Fields, which is located about 45 minutes from the Dixon site. Commissioners hope to see Texas' Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie and Magna's renovation project at Gulfstream Park as well as the Palm Meadows training facility in Florida.

Magna officials expect the actual construction of phase 1 to take 12 to18 months once the approval process is completed.