Magna Unveils Revisions for $250-Million Dixon Downs

Magna Entertainment Corp.'s plans for Dixon Downs, the company's ideal "racetrack of the future," are finally headed to the starting gate. On March 3, MEC submitted its detailed proposal for the $250-million project to the city of Dixon, located 19 miles west of Sacramento, Calif.

Three years after the company first expressed interest in the 260-acre site, Magna now envisions building a "major sports, entertainment, and shopping destination" that would become the hub of its Northern California operation.

"There's nothing like it," Magna chief executive officer Jim McAlpine told the Sacramento Bee. "This is an extremely important project for MEC in terms of racetracks overall. We're trying to build something that will last for the next 50, 100 years or more. And we want to do it right."

Dixon Downs has gone through about 40 revisions since Magna unveiled its original proposal in October 2001. The plan has grown from a state-of-the-art racetrack and training center to include a 1.25 million-square-foot commercial complex adjacent to the 6,800-seat Finish Line Pavilion with a 240-room hotel, conference hall, restaurants, multi-screen cineplex, anchor department stores, and upscale shops.

The concept is similar to the mix of entertainment and retail Magna has proposed for its Santa Anita Park and Gulfstream Park properties. Dixon Downs could become the prototype for other Magna projects elsewhere.

"The more we thought about it, the more Dixon made sense," McAlpine said. "This is a big, green field with nothing there."

Magna founder Frank Stronach wants to test his concept of luring potential fans to racing through other forms of entertainment. "By putting shopping and entertainment right in front of the racetrack, we have something for everybody," Stronach said.

The pavilion, track, and training center would be the first phase of development, McAlpine said. The main track would be 1 1/8 miles with lengthy chutes. The one-mile turf course would be double wide to maximize its use as well as accommodate large fields.

The stable area, modeled after Magna's Palm Meadows facility in Florida, would accommodate more than 1,600 horses with 260 apartments for workers. If approved, the track could be open and operational in 2006.

Magna owns both San Francisco Bay area tracks, Golden Gate Fields and Bay Meadows, which is slated by the city of San Mateo for redevelopment. The Dixon Downs site is 45 minutes from Golden Gate Fields.