Hollywood Park closes Sunday after 75 years


The $200,000 King Glorious Stakes for 2-year-olds was the track's last race. The 75-year-old racetrack will be turned into a housing and retail development starting next year.

On Sunday, the track came alive with jammed parking lots, lines at the betting windows, and thousands of fans and employees swapping stories about the Track of the Lakes and Flowers.

It seemed an appropriate ending to the story of a racetrack that opened during Hollywood's golden age of filming. But it was also a tough day for racing fans who questioned and blamed the cities of Inglewood and Los Angeles and the state of California for the track's closure.

"I've been coming here since my dad was here, and that was over 30 years - I was a little boy," said Earl Seale of Compton. "I'm gonna miss this track, it's a nice place."

"It's like having a relative die that you've known was gonna die for six month so it's like you've lived through the initial grief," said Lou Race of Westchester. "It's sad but it's inevitable."

Hollywood Park opened in 1938, under the direction of movie moguls Jack and Harry Warner. The 260-acre track hosted Seabiscuit and the first Breeders' Cup in 1984. It also featured thoroughbred stars such as Triple Crown winners Citation, Seattle Slew and Affirmed, and superstar mare Zenyatta.

Elizabeth Taylor, Dick Van Patten, Jimmy Stewart, Bing Crosby and Cary Grant were among the track's celebrity visitors.

Hollywood Park is the second major California racetrack to close in five years. Bay Meadows near San Francisco closed in 2008 after 74 years to make way for a similar development.

Some of horseracing's fixtures began at Hollywood Park and spread throughout the industry, including Sunday racing, which debuted in 1973, and fan giveaways.

The track's future had been in question since Churchill Downs sold it to Hollywood Park Land Co. in 2005.

At the time, the new owner said racing would continue for a minimum of three years while an effort was made to revitalize the sport's business model.

In recent years, attendance at the 260-acre track had declined sharply due to online betting. The aging facility had struggled financially. Betfair Hollywood Park officials say the land on which it sits on is too valuable to sustain the racing operations. Statewide initiatives to install slot machines at the track also failed.

"If all the people who showed up today because it's closing day, if all of them had been here last week or the week before, it wouldn't be closing," said Judy Race of Westchester.

The track's 260-acre footprint will be turned into 3,000 housing units, including single-family townhomes and condos; 25 acres of parkland, including a 10-acre central park; and a retail and entertainment district, anchored by a movie theatre, office space and a 300-room hotel.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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