Demolition zone ahead

Glenn Gullickson's picture
THE PHOENIX TROTTING PARK near Interstate 10 and Loop 303 in Goodyear is set to be demolished. View photo by Jordan Christopher
THE PHOENIX TROTTING PARK near Interstate 10 and Loop 303 in Goodyear is set to be demolished. View photo by Jordan Christopher

Phoenix Trotting Park set to be razed

Owners of the iconic Phoenix Trotting Park plan to demolish the Goodyear landmark by the end of the year, according to public records obtained by the West Valley View.

Work on demolishing the grandstand structure that has stood abandoned for more than 50 years could start by July 10 and be completed by Dec. 1, according to a notification filed with the Maricopa County Air Quality Department.

Demolition would dash the hopes of preservationists and bring to an end a storied history for the structure at the intersection of Interstate 10 and Loop 303 that has been called fascinating, mysterious, a white elephant and an eyesore.

Slated to be demolished are the 86-foot-tall, four-story grandstand, which measures 195 feet by 500 feet, a jockey building and a maintenance building.

The filing made on May 2 by demolition contractor BSC Enterprises of Gilbert did not indicate how the grandstand would be demolished, but the company’s website indicates it’s accomplished major demolitions, including shopping centers, hotels and a terminal at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

Trotting Park owners also filed a notification for removal of asbestos from 256,397 square feet of the building to be completed between May 8 and Nov. 11 by a Tempe company.

Asbestos was used in construction until it was banned after it was linked to lung cancer and other illnesses.

Before the grandstand can be demolished, the asbestos must be removed and transported to a special location, according to Daryl Fellows, development services supervisor for the Maricopa County Air Quality Department.

Goodyear city officials confirmed that the Trotting Park’s owners are preparing the structure for demolition later this year.

Amy Bolton, the city’s public information officer, said the city is coordinating with contractors on access and public safety issues.

We look forward to continuing to work with the contractors and property owners so the schedule can be met,” Bolton said in an email.

She said the Goodyear 2025 General Plan supports the development of the property for business and commerce.

The Trotting Park’s 194-acre site was offered for sale in December 2015 with an asking price of $16.5 million and reportedly fell out of escrow twice.

While a “for sale” sign still stands in front of the property, the listing is no longer posted on the website of Colliers International.

Since the early 1990s, the structure and land have been owned by Citrus Commerce Center, a Phoenix-based company controlled by the Roles family, which also does business as Roles Inn of America and formerly owned the Cotton Lane RV Resort south of the Trotting Park property.

The grandstand built in 1964 is notable for its concrete construction based on a futuristic design by an Italian architect Eugenio Grassetto.

Built for $9 million by horse racing financier James Dunnigan as a venue for harness racing, the grandstand offered 5,400 seats for spectators who could view the races through 22,608 square feet of glass.

But the enterprise didn’t take off and the Trotting Park closed after two seasons.

Much of the grandstand’s glass was destroyed by an explosion at the site staged for the 1998 Charlie Sheen movie No Code of Conduct.

Over the years, the site has roused the curiosity of urban explorers who cross “no trespassing” signs as well as the scores of motorists who pass by on one of the busiest interstates in the state that connects Phoenix to Los Angeles.

Sharon Girulat, a resident of Goodyear and Lake Forest, Calif., who has been lobbying for the Trotting Park’s preservation and promoted it as “the Grassetto” in a nod to its architect, speculated that potential buyers did not see the advantages of the grandstand.

She said the owners may be motivated to demolish the structure to make the property at a major highway intersection more appealing to buyers or developers.

Girulat proposed converting the structure into a performing arts center or using the grounds to set up short-term events and worked to attract a buyer who would share her vision.

She said she was never able to speak with the owners of the property.

It’s their property, they can do what they want,” she said.

Last week, Girulat informed supporters of her efforts that the fight was over.

In an email under the headline “Death is Imminent,” Girulat said, “We can no longer hold out hope or desires, or plans, or dreams of great historic and community stability from its presence.”

In an interview with the West Valley View, Girulat called her efforts “a hard sell in this community.”

I know most people around here don’t understand because they’re not preservationists,” Girulat said. “This is not a community with a preservation heart. You have to have a preservation heart to fight for it.”

Trevor Freeman of Phoenix, who has studied the property for a decade and created a website devoted to its history, said he was sad that the structure would meet its demise.

If it’s any consolation to the preservationists, I know that the building will put up a good fight,” Freeman said.

He said the grandstand was “tremendously overbuilt” with steel reinforced concrete that is three times stronger than is common for similar structures.

Freeman noted that there’s intense interest in the building judging by the number of people who have inquired through his website about obtaining permission to visit the site.

John Finnegan, who was the Colliers International listing agent, said he could not talk about the property.

The Roles family could not be contacted for comment for this story and Jean Emery, a Phoenix attorney who was listed on state filings as a representative of the owners, would not speak about her client’s plans.

 

Glenn Gullickson can be reached at ggullickson@westvalleyview.com.

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