The news last week was apparently not unexpected to those around horse racing. Hollywood Park, the Inglewood track opened in 1938 that for a long time was a hangout for LA's rich and famous, will close at the end of the year. The track's acreage, including barns and training areas, is much more valuable developed into homes and shops. The Hollywood Park Casino will remain on the property, the owners say. LA Times columnist Bill Dwyre understands the economics, while lamenting them. Excerpt from his piece:
Shortly after the first of the year, the grandstand through which movie stars once paraded and which racing fans once packed will come down. The infield of lakes and palm trees, waterfalls and pink flamingos will become houses, condominiums, shops and restaurants.
"It's a higher and better use of the land," said track President Jack Liebau. Liebau is 75. The track was built by the Warner Bros. movie moguls the year he was born.
By "higher and better," Liebau meant more profitable. The Hollywood Park Land Co., to whom Liebau reports, was clear about its intentions from the start. It bought Hollywood Park from Churchill Downs in 2005 and said it would give racing a three-year commitment to "improve the business model." Failing that, the prime piece of land would be developed.
Liebau referred to the transaction between Churchill and his company as the time when "the racing people took the money and ran." He said that a major strategic effort by his group was to persuade the state to allow slot machines on site, which has become a good way to finance the expensive business of racing horses. Then the Indian casino lobby stopped that effort and Hollywood Park kept racing mainly because, for a while, the economy didn't pencil out well for big development projects. Now it apparently does.
Deanne Stillman, the author and sometime LA Observed contributor, remembers Hollywood Park in her life in a personal piece she wrote for Truthdig last year.