Hollywood Park Ready to Battle Energy Crisis

Officials at Southern California's three major racetracks are considering the purchase of portable generators to protect against rolling blackouts during the state's energy crisis.

Hollywood Park president Rick Baedeker told the California Horse Racing Board Thursday that unless the state's power woes are solved soon, it's possible there will be blackouts during the summer when the track is open for live racing.

Baedeker estimates the track and the adjacent casino need three generators to provide enough juice for both facilities. The price tag for the equipment will be about $4 million, he said.

"This situation is imminent," Baedeker said. "We have no other choice. We can't shutdown."

The hefty investment may seem short-sighted by Hollywood officials given the uncertainty of the unstable power crisis in California. But considering Hollywood Park paid $800,000 in fines last year to Southern California Edison, and the figure is expected to double in 2001, the generators might not be a bad idea.

"Nobody has a crystal ball right now," Baedeker said. "These generators could be totally useless in two years. We need them now."

Hollywood officials may purchase the equipment within the next two weeks, though generators are in high demand but short in supply right now. Baedeker said the track may get a good deal from Sempra Energy, sponsor of the track's premier summer race, the Hollywood Gold Cup.

Management at Santa Anita Park and Del Mar wouldn't go as far Hollywood officials, but they're at least exploring the purchase of portable generators. Plant superintendent Alex Furer said Santa Anita would need about two megawatts worth of electricity to power the entire track. One megawatt can supply 1,000 homes with electricity.

Californians have been mired in a power shortage for several months because of a deregulated energy market. The experiment allowed utility companies like So Cal Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric to sell their power plants and buy electricity from wholesale suppliers. But those providers have jacked up rates and forced utilities to announce they are nearing bankruptcy.