SBD/December 23, 2013/Facilities

Final Race Card At Betfair Hollywood Park Finale Sees Relatively Large Crowd

Hollywood Park is the second major California racetrack to close since '08
Betfair Hollywood Park held its final day of racing on Sunday, and a crowd "reminiscent of better times arrived for the final card," according to David Wharton of the L.A. TIMES. Paid attendance reached 13,000, but officials said that with lines stretching into the parking lot, they "let significantly more people through the gates" after 2:00pm PT. There was "a noticeable buzz among gamblers." When the video board on Sunday "showed photographs from past years and highlights from memorable races, a wistful sort of applause echoed across the grounds." Some fans "had seen the end coming for years as the increasing popularity of Internet betting and simulcast wagering whittled average attendance to less than 4,000 last summer." Big race days in the 80s "often drew crowds in excess of 50,000." The 75-year-old racetrack "will have its grandstand razed and its racing ovals dug up," with shops, offices and residential units "planned for the spot" (L.A. TIMES, 12/23). BLOODHORSE's Jack Shinar notes the first Breeders' Cup was run at Hollywood Park in '84, making it "the first Breeder's Cup track to shut down." Hollywood Park is "the second major California racetrack" to close since '08, when Bay Meadows near S.F. "was shuttered after 74 years." It was "closed to make way for a similar development by the same land company that is shuttering Hollywood." Del Mar Thoroughbred Club and Santa Anita Park, which "will open its winter/spring meet Dec. 26," will pick up "most of Hollywood's dates." Los Alamitos Race Course also will "pick up some of Hollywood Park's calendar." Hollywood Park's future "had been in question" since Churchill Downs Inc. sold it to Bay Meadows Land Co. in '05 (BLOODHORSE.com, 12/23).

DOWN THE STRETCH THEY COME: DAILY RACING FORM's Steve Andersen wrote Sunday's program "had a big-day feel." The Turf Club at Hollywood Park was "at capacity and bustling with activity." The box-seat area by mid-afternoon "was full, and sections of the grandstand unused for years were occupied." Track President Jack Liebau said that the venue "ran out of programs by 2 p.m. and that concession items were sold out by mid-afternoon in some locations." Andersen notes lines for bets and concessions "were 10 to 15 deep in some places, much longer than on any other recent day." Liebau said that the track "finished the 27-day autumn meeting with a gain of '2 or 3' percent in average all-sources handle" (DRF.com, 12/23). But in California, Green & Mazza write, "The crumbling asphalt apron along the rail and cavernous grandstand capable of holding a record 80,000 ... were still two-thirds empty." Additionally, the track's gift shop was "all but devoid of mementos for souvenir seekers" (Torrance DAILY BREEZE, 12/23).

LESS IS MORE: ESPN.com's Bill Finley wrote, "One of racing's biggest problems is that there is too much of it, and that leads to the type of small fields and tedium that the customers detest and meets that go on longer than what is optimal." That is why the sport is "prospering at the boutique meets -- Keeneland, Del Mar, Saratoga -- and suffering from a malaise most everywhere else." The customer has "told the industry exactly what it wants: big fields, low takeouts, good betting opportunities and meets that have a beginning and an end." But the industry "doesn't listen or react" (ESPN.com, 12/20).
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