Magna to Unveil Plan for New Calif. Track

Magna Entertainment will soon reveal plans for a state-of-the-art racetrack and Thoroughbred training facility near Sacramento.

Magna officials will be the special guests at a community meeting Oct. 17 in Dixon, a town of about 15,000 located 19 miles west of Sacramento. Magna recently purchased 225 acres in Dixon for $6.3 million and has another 25-acre parcel in escrow. The main site is adjacent to Interstate 80, the major east-west freeway connecting Sacramento to San Francisco, and is less than one hour away from Golden Gate Fields, which is also owned by Magna.

The idea of a major track in Dixon first surfaced more than a year ago, but was dropped after some contentious public debate. Some residents worry that such a facility would wreck Dixon's small-town way of life, while others think that it's just what Dixon needs to generate tax revenue for the future of this rapidly growing town. 

Magna expects this latest visit to Dixon as a get-acquainted session.

"We want people to get to know us and we also want to get to know what they want," said Bay Meadows president Jack Liebau, who is in charge of Magna's three California racetracks. "That's the main purpose of this meeting. We want to share Magna's ideas as well as get input from the citizenry."

Liebau would not disclose specifics of what Magna wants, but said it definitely included a state-of-the-art racetrack and year-round training facility. Most of all, Magna wants to create something that will make Dixon happy, too, and that valley residents can point to with pride. 

Frank Stronach, Magna's founder and CEO, has said that his company would be willing to spend as much as $150 million on the Dixon project.

Last year, Magna proposed a Thoroughbred showcase and horse-oriented entertainment center in Dixon that would replace San Mateo's Bay Meadows, which must be vacated by Dec. 31, 2002. When Magna bought Bay Meadows, the company got the business, but not the property underneath the racetrack complex. Paine-Webber, the land's owner, plans to redevelop that 80-acre site after Magna's lease ends at the end of next year.

If approved by Dixon city officials and licensed by the state, racing could be held at a new track as soon as April 2003 -- the first race dates the old Bay Meadows would miss.