Hazel Park Raceway closes after 70 years
Hazel Park — The Hazel Park Raceway has closed after a 70-year run, the company announced Thursday.
People visiting the horse racing track at 10 Mile and Dequindre were greeted by a brief announcement about the closure. Employees declined to comment, telling The Detroit News that the announcement said everything that needed to be said.
Hazel Park Raceway said Thursday that it has agreed to sell its assets and was expected to close the deal within a few weeks. Terms of the deal were not released.
About 90 employees are expected to lose their jobs. The company said it will attempt to offer employment placement services.
The city considered the raceway “a huge part of Hazel Park’s history” and confirmed negotiations to sell the land to a developer.
“We would like to see the site redeveloped as soon as possible and we look forward to working with any future owner to facilitate that redevelopment process,” City Manager Edward Klobucher said.
Redevelopment has been underway at the site, he said. The Tri-County Commerce Center, an industrial park by New York-based real estate investment firm Ashley Capital, is on part of the racetrack.
In 2015, the company acquired a 36-acre parcel at the track’s northwest corner for a 575,000-square-foot industrial building, according to its website. Construction was completed in June, and Ashley quickly gained tenants including LG Electronics and Amazon, which signed a seven-year lease for a small package delivery center, the firm reported.
“We know that area is attractive for redevelopment,” Klobucher said. “We hope that we can bring some similar developments to the remaining areas of the raceway.”
Hazel Park Raceway opened in 1949 with a five-eighths-mile track. It hosted only harness racing from 1985 2014 before switching back to thoroughbred use.
The raceway said in a release that changes in the gaming industry have affected horse racing across the state.
The city of Hazel Park in a tweet Thursday morning that “the raceway struggled for more than 20 years under a very unfavorable regulatory environment” in Michigan.
The Michigan Gaming Control Board, through spokeswoman Mary Kay Bean, said “this sad news is not a surprise, as we’ve seen a steady decline in wagering and attendance” at the raceway, adding that “it is likely the property’s value for real estate development exceeds the profits from horse racing.”
In the 1950s, “the raceway provided almost 50 percent of the city’s general fund operating budget,” Klobucher said. “In the ’80s, it was about 25 percent. In the late ’90s, it was 10 percent. Now it’s dwindled to less than 2 percent. It’s no longer a significant part of our city’s revenue picture.”
The gaming control board said it will “ensure the track makes arrangements” for bettors to redeem unpaid winning tickets issued at the track by June 5, Bean said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.