Bay Meadows Future Gets Assurances

Bay Meadows, thought to be starting what could have been its final year of operation on April 7, figures to be around for quite a bit longer.

The owner of the Bay Meadows racetrack property told the California Horse Racing Board March 25 that his company is three years away from getting the approvals it needs to begin its development plan in San Mateo. Terrence Fancher said the facility would be kept open for live racing for at least that long and perhaps "another 20 years beyond that."

Bay Meadows' future has been in doubt because of commercial development plans on what's left of the original track property. The former backstretch has been converted to office buildings. However, during the lengthy entitlement process, the property has changed hands.

Fancher, executive managing director of Stockbridge Capital Partners LLC, which acquired the property last year, told the board there is "no imminent change" in store for Bay Meadows and that his company wishes to "keep racing going."

Fancher told the board his development company is holding its options open. Bay Meadows is one of five racetracks that stands to benefit from a statewide ballot proposal that could bring thousands of slot machines to the facility. He said Stockbridge is among those backing the initiative.

Magna Entertainment Corp. currently holds the lease to operate racing at Bay Meadows. The lease expires at the end of the year and would require renegotiations to continue.

Scott Daruty, chief U.S. counsel for Magna "is committed to spending resources to make sure we have racing in Northern California on a year-round basis for a long, long time." Magna has purchased 263 acres in Dixon, Calif., near Sacramento, and is in the midst of getting city approval for plans for a new track, Dixon Downs. He said he expected that process to require at least two years.

Magna also has plans to upgrade its Golden Gate facility in Albany for possible expanded use, Daruty said.