Sonoma County Fair broke ground on a $3 million turf course at its Santa Rosa, Calif. racetrack April 8, and officials plan to have the new seven-eighths of a mile oval ready for use at the 2005 summer meeting.
"We're going to have horse racing here as long as people show up," fair manager Jim Moore said. "The turf course demonstrates our commitment and it will make the experience for fans that much nicer. It should also take a little pressure off our dirt horses if we can card one or two turf races a day. And since our meet is only two weeks long, we can use it all the time. We won't wear the turf out."
Excavation for the lower layers of the sand-based course, which will be 60 feet wide when completed, has already started and will be in progress during the 2004 meet, which begins in late July.
Representatives from area legislative offices, county board of supervisor members, fair board members and other officials attended the brief groundbreaking ceremony.
The fair is paying about half of the total cost of the package, with state fairs and exposition picking up the other half, Moore said. A big part of the project will be redesigning a nine-hole golf course on the track's infield that is owned by the county.
The fair derives a huge portion of its income from racing, Moore noted.
"If we don't put on the best show we possibly can, we're going to lose out," he said.
The course will be in use for only the 12-day fair, which has run from the final week in July through the first week of August, although it gives the track additional flexibility were racing schedules to change in the future, Moore added.