A friend of mine was driving west recently and enroute to Phoenix, Ariz., he drove along Interstate 10. Across the flat planes of the state’s desert acres, he noticed a building that, as he told me, “had no business being there.”
“Ah ha,” I told him, “you found the remnants of Phoenix Trotting Park.”
|Photo via LeBlanc CP on Flickr|
Phoenix Trotting Park today
“Yup. The ruins of Phoenix Trotting Park are visible for miles around.”
And I told him, as I tell you, what I know about the ill-fated track that is still standing like ruins in an ancient civilization.
A long time ago, in an economy far, far better than the present economy, a harness racing track was built on the sands of the Arizona desert. It was a huge plant with sandy colored walls that matched the dunes of its foundation. There were steel frames and large windows and a skybox on the roof for premium customers. There were escalators and a deep atrium and glass towers on either side of the grandstand. It was built with reinforced concrete because it was meant to withstand the heat and the sometimes-torrid wind and sand storms of the territory.
I was told the original budget was $3 million. But the cost of this harness palace did not end there. Italian architects were flown in at one point to help perfect the futuristic design that would be its motif.
It has been reported that footing the bill for this majestic facility was James J. Dunnigan, who successfully built Buffalo Raceway in 1942. Apparently, Dunnigan and perhaps some investors, thought the remote setting of a desert was a good place to construct a mansion around a racing oval that would host harness racing.
Phoenix Trotting Park opened in 1965.
Phoenix Trotting Park closed for good in 1966.
Perhaps it was the remote location, as well as the poorly planned roads leading to the plant that kept customers away. Dunnigan swore he would continue to work to make it a success after it closed, but there was no way to sustain the facility without customers. Dunnigan went bankrupt and the site was abandoned.
You can still see it from Interstate 10 and my friend is only one of many people who ask about the harness outpost that erodes like the bones of an animal devoured by vultures.
If any readers, especially horsemen and owners, have a personal story about Phoenix Trotting Park, please write to me at email@example.com and we will follow up on the mysterious history of just who raced there.
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