Bay Meadows racetrack development deferred past 2004
- Published Saturday, November 1, 2003, in the San Mateo County Times
Ponies may run at track into '05
By Malaika Fraley
SAN MATEO -- Negotiations are under way to keep the Bay Meadows Race
Course operating beyond 2004, a track spokesman said Friday.
Magna Entertainment Corp., the largest racetrack operator in the
state, and property owner Bay Meadows Land Company are in talks to
extend Magna's current lease, which expires on Dec. 31, 2004,
according to track spokesman Tom Ferrall.
The news comes as Bay Meadows ends its fall meet -- Sunday is the last
day of live racing -- to the delight of activists campaigning to stop
the historic racetrack from being developed into a high-density
"That is really terrific," said Linda Schinkel, who formed Citizens
for Responsible Community Growth ["N.I.M.B.Y."] with fellow Shoreview
residents in response to Bay Meadows Land Company's proposal to build
2.1 million square feet of office space, 100,000 square feet of
retail, and 15,000 housing units on the track's 83 acres.
"That would certainly contribute to more time to explore more
possibilities or options to keep the track running," Schinkel said.
The potential lease extension became possible because Bay Meadows Land
Company's application with the city's Planning Department is moving
slower than anticipated.
San Mateo project planner Stephen Scott said the draft Environment
Impact Report on the project won't be complete until at least
mid-January. It had been expected to be ready this fall.
The EIR will look at both the Bay Meadows Phase 2 plan and the city's
own transportation corridor plan for the two-mile strip between the
Hillsdale and Hayward Park Caltrain stations, an area that includes
the track. <http://www.corridorplan.com/san_mateo/default.asp>
Magna purchased the track for $2.4 million in November 2000, and this
would be the second time its lease has been extended. It plans to
continue operations in San Mateo until development plans are final.
Farrell said attendance dropped 1 percent, but revenue increased
during the Bay Meadows' fall season, which opened in late August.
"It's been a very good meet. The total, overall handle went up 2
percent," Farrell said.
Bay Meadows was built in 1934 by William P. Kyne, the man credited
with bringing horse racing back to California by spearheading a
campaign to legalize pari-mutual betting after wagering on horses was
outlawed by the state.
The oldest racetrack in California, Bay Meadows was the site of
numerous firsts, including the photo finish, night racing,
quarter-horse racing, the first horse transported by airplane, the
daily double, and the electric starting gate.
Despite the track's historical significance in San Mateo and the world
of horse racing, Schinkel said a lot people haven't been aware of
plans to do away with the track.
Her group and another grassroots organization started by residents in
the Beresford-Hillsdale neighborhood, Save Bay Meadows, have been
spreading the word.
Save Bay Meadows spokeswoman Donna Bischoff said she hopes to present
as many as 4,000 signatures from people who want the track preserved
next month at the City Council and County Board of Supervisors
meetings. Schnikel's group has collected a number of signatures as
"It seems that people involved in this (planning process) are seeing
the track's closure as inevitable, but what were talking about here is
a big zoning change," Schnikel said, noting the land is zoned for
agriculture and Bay Meadows Land Company is proposing a high-density
"We don't see it as being inevitable, and we don't think it's as done
a deal as people close to the project seem to think."
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