New Site Plan for Turf Paradise, but Future Racing Still Hinges on Gaming Legalization

Turf Paradise | Coady

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A conceptual site plan newly submitted to the city of Phoenix for the proposed industrial development at Turf Paradise calls for the closure of the track once the under-agreement sale goes forward and development begins. But the incoming owner is still floating the idea of resuming racing at the 67-year-old Thoroughbred venue in the future if historical horse race gaming gets legalized in Arizona.

Audrey Jensen of the Phoenix Business Journal first reported Aug. 8 on the new details about the project, which has been named Winner's Circle Business Park. It proposes eight industrial buildings and two data centers on the 213-acre property that is being acquired by developer CT Realty. The sale, which was announced back in April, is on target to close by the end of this year.

James Watson, the managing partner of CT Realty, told the Phoenix Business Journal, “If we can get [gaming legislation] accomplished I think we can put the racetrack back on a really firm footing and build really beautiful product around it. We're at the moment trying to get some support from the governor…to create a big income stream to the state through these taxes.”

The new details about the Turf Paradise sale and development came one day after Arizona Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association (AZHBPA) president Lloyd Yother wrote in an open letter that he would “fight like hell” to ensure racing in the state is not dead.

“There are still many avenues to consider that will save Arizona horse racing. There are even options that include the possibility of running a late race meet in 2023 or possibly early in 2024,” Yother wrote. “If these don't pan out, our board will continue to exhaust every means available to bring horse racing back to Arizona in the very near future.”

Back on Aug. 1, the current ownership that is selling at Turf Paradise announced it wouldn't be opening the track in November as planned for its 2023-24 race meet. In response, horsemen held out hope that the incoming ownership would be willing to operate the remainder of the scheduled season from January through May 4. That aspect of the plan has not been confirmed by CT Realty.

When Turf Paradise concluded its 2022-23 meet in May, Arizona was left without an operational commercial race meet.

Arizona Downs, 82 miles north of Turf Paradise in Prescott Valley, didn't apply for a June-through-September race meet this year because of financial difficulties. That track has been mentioned as being up for sale or lease for over a year. It formerly operated as Yavapai Downs between 2000 and 2010, when ownership at that time filed for bankruptcy.

Elsewhere in the state, Rillito Park in Tucson traditionally runs weekends from early February through early April. Earlier this year, Cochise County Fair in Douglas ran a two-day mixed meet Apr. 15 and 16, as did Santa Cruz County Fair at Sonoita May 6 and 7.

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