Magna Entertainment's Palm Meadows, a Thoroughbred training center designed to relieve the stall shortage in South Florida, will be ready for equine residents this winter but dormitories for employees may not be ready.
Scott Savin, president of the Magna-owned Gulfstream Park, indicated that 800 stalls at the Boynton Beach, Fla., facility would be ready for horses as of Nov. 25, as would the 1 1/8-mile dirt track and one-mile turf course. Savin said stall applications were mailed out during the first week of September and are due by Oct. 2.
"All of the feedback has been positive," Savin said. "Some of the bigger outfits that traditionally took their maximum allotment of 29 stalls at Gulfstream were looking to get additional stalls at Palm Meadows, while some of the smaller guys who couldn't be accommodated at Gulfstream are seeing this as a way to get their foot in the door."
With the closure of Hialeah Park in 2001, more than 1,000 stalls were lost. The situation, at least in part, led to significant declines in Gulfstream's attendance and handle.
"It's all about the field size," Savin said.
Palm Meadows will expand Magna's capacity to more than 2,100 stalls in South Florida. "With Palm Meadows, we will be in really good shape," Savin said.
Savin said there is "no chance" the training center will fail to open because 20 of the planned 24 barns have been completed, and the base for both tracks has been laid. Construction at the facility 37 miles north of Gulfstream will continue, with a total capacity of 1,400 stalls anticipated for its 2003 opening.
Still, there remains uncertainty about accommodations for backstretch workers. In what Savin refers to as "a housing situation," Magna has yet to receive permits to construct dormitories.
"We will provide housing to backstretch workers without cost, but we don't yet know where," Savin said. It's possible grooms and hotwalkers could bee housed at a facility about 10 miles off site. In that case, transportation would be provided, Savin said.
Trainer Todd Pletcher, who was among those squeezed by Hialeah's closing (he ultimately split his stable in 2001 between Gulfstream and Louisiana's Fair Grounds) said he has applied for as many stalls as he could get at Palm Meadows.
"I would prefer to have all of my horses there if it was complete and they had facilities for the employees," he said. "If everything goes forward, we will see if it's better there."