New Life for Atlantic City Race Course?

New Life for Atlantic City Race Course?
Photo: Blood-Horse Publications

A public-private partnership could lead to redevelopment of Atlantic City Race Course but would include upgrades to the circa-1946 facility and continuation—if not expansion—of live Thoroughbred racing at the New Jersey track.

The project involving businesses that handle aviation technology is being headed by the South Jersey Economic Development District and is linked to expansion at the Federal Aviation Administration Tech Center on property that includes nearby Atlantic City International Airport. Plans call for the NextGen Aviation and Technology Research Park to be built near the airport, but if more space is needed, portions of the more than 200-acre ACRC property would be utilized.

The plans were presented to the Hamilton Township Committee (Atlantic County) in late December, ACRC president Maureen Gallagher Budgon said Jan. 5. Much needs to fall into place for the development to occur—most likely several years at the earliest given economic conditions—but Bugdon said it appears to be the best redevelopment plan offered for the track property in some time.

“In conjunction with whatever comes in the way of the aviation technology industry, the racetrack and grandstand would stay and be improved, and parts of the main building also would be refurbished,” she said. “This could include a new simulcast parlor, and hopefully we’d be able to add live race dates.”

According to the plans and an artist’s rendering, a 20-story hotel would be constructed adjacent the racetrack clubhouse. Offices would be built in what’s now a large parking lot between the track and the Hamilton Mall. Part of the old barn area would make way for residential units, according to the plan.

Several news barns would be built closer to the grandstand to accommodate what has become a ship-in racing operation. It’s possible the jockeys’ quarters near the paddock walking ring would be expanded and renovated.

The brick and concrete grandstand with its clock tower is a local landmark in an area that has developed quite a bit in the past 20 years with the growth of casino gambling about 15 miles south in Atlantic City. At one time the track property was surrounded by pine trees.

According to a recent report in the Press of Atlantic City, the project at the track would cost $300 million to $400 million and be paid by private developers.

Atlantic City, owned by Pennsylvania-based Greenwood Racing, this year will offer six consecutive days of all-turf racing from April 28-May 3. The schedule includes a Saturday (April 30) and a Sunday (May 1).

“I think our numbers over the last six years or so show this area absolutely holds its Thoroughbred racing sacred,” Bugdon said of increases in attendance and pari-mutuel handle in recent years for the short live meets. “It would be sensational to see it brought back to some of its former glory.”

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