Frequently Asked Questions

Learn about the Phoenix Trotting Park by reading the answers to these frequently asked questions.

What is the Phoenix Trotting Park?
The Trotting Park was a harness (horse) racing facility built on the outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona in the mid-1960s. It featured two 1-mile race tracks and a large grandstand building, which still stands today.

What is harness racing?
Harness racing is a type of horse race where the driver (not a jockey) sits behind the horse on a lightweight, two-wheeled cart called a sulky. Please refer to the table below for a comparison of Harness Racing to traditional Flat Racing.

Flat Racing Harness Racing
The most common form of horse racing worldwide. A form of horse racing popular in France, Italy, Australia, and the U.S., but can be found worldwide.
Type of Horse Thoroughbred Standardbred
Track Surface Natural grass "turf" or dirt Dirt
Track Lengths 1 mile or 1.25 mile 1/2 mile, 5/8 mile, 1 mile (rare)
Horse Speed Gallop Trot or Pace
Horseman "Jockey" "Driver"
Horseman Location On top of the horse Behind the horse in a 2-wheeled cart or "sulky"

Where is Phoenix Trotting Park located?
The facility is located in Goodyear, Arizona - approximately 23 miles west of downtown Phoenix. The cross streets are Interstate 10 at Cotton Lane. The Phoenix Trotting Park address is listed as:

1068 N Cotton Ln
Goodyear AZ 85338
United States



When was Phoenix Trotting Park built? When did it open?
The Trotting Park was built in 1964 and opened on January 11, 1965.[1]

When did it close?
According to an article in Harness Horse magazine, the Trotting Park closed indefinitely on December 7, 1966.[2]

Who built the park?
The owner was James J. Dunnigan of Buffalo, New York. He also owned the Buffalo Raceway, another harness-racing facility that is still in operation today.[3]

Who designed Phoenix Trotting Park?
Designed by: Impressa Eugenio Grassetto of Padua, Italy
Coordinating Architects: Victor Gruen and Associates, Los Angeles
Civil Engineers: Maddock Engineers, Inc.
Mechanical Engineer: Hellman & Lober
Structural Engineer: John K. Parsons
Acoustical Consultant: V.O. Knudsen, Ph.D.
Soil Engineer: Engineering Testing Laboratories
Contractors: Gilbert & Dolan Enterprises, E.L. Farmer Construuction Co. Inc., joint venture
Kitchen Design: Straus-Duparquet, Inc.
Job Superintendent: Walter Schmidt
Project Engineer: Victor R. Preston
Specialized Rigging Designer: Cecil Pelts, owner of Reliance Truck Co. [5]

How much did it cost to build?
Construction costs soared past $9,500,000 in 1964.[4] Adjusted for inflation, this would be approximately $67.6 million in 2013 dollars.

Why did it close?
There were a number of reasons why the Trotting Park did not do well: low attendance, remote location, and the high cost of the park's construction. For a detailed explanation, please refer to the History page.

What did they do about the heat? Was the Trotting Park air conditioned?
The main grandstand of the Trotting Park was designed to be used only in the winter, therefore it was heated but was not equipped with air conditioning. Within the grandstand there was a year-round restaurant which was fully air conditioned.

What are some facts about the park?
640 acres
Building size: 500ft L x 195ft W x 86ft H (152.4m x 59.4m x 26.2m)
Seating capacity: 5,400 people
Tracks: 5/8 mile oval and 1 mile oval
Stable capacity: 1,000 horses
Dormitory Capacity: 120 people
Opening day attendance: 12,223 people [1]

Who owns Phoenix Trotting Park?
According to public records, the Trotting Park is owned by Roles Inn of America. They currently operate the Cotton Lane RV Resort on the southern edge of the property.

Can I visit the Trotting Park?
NO. The Trotting Park is on private land and visitors are not allowed.

Why is the Trotting Park significant?
The Trotting Park is notable for several reasons.

  • The building is a marvel of construction engineering and was extremely well built.
  • It was built of over 3,000 pieces of pre-cast concrete, a cutting-edge technology in the 1960s.
  • Harness racing tracks are much less common than traditional Flat Racing tracks such as Turf Paradise. This one has been exceptionally well preserved thanks to the dry desert climate.
  • It is notable for having withstood the test of time for over 50 years.
  • The Italian design and architecture are very unique and (I think) deserve to be preserved.

Could it be reopened?
It is unlikely that the Trotting Park will ever be re-opened as a commercial horse racing facility, though it could be adapted for a different purpose. It would take a significant investment to refurbish the grandstand to a usable state, not to mention bringing it up to modern standards for fire safety, disability access, and the various requirements needed for the city to issue a Certificate of Occupancy.

I heard that a movie was filmed there.
Yes, that is true. The grandstand was featured in the 1998 film "No Code of Conduct" starring Charlie Sheen and Martin Sheen.

Is the Phoenix Trotting Park haunted?
There are no confirmed reports of any paranormal activity here amounting to anything greater than the creepiness of a large, abandoned structure that creaks and groans in the wind. While there are no confirmed deaths at the track, a man was injured after falling 20 feet while trespassing at the park in 2012.

Is the track related to Phoenix Greyhound Park?
No, they are two separate tracks with two separate owners and raced completely different animals. Phoenix Greyhound Park was located in Phoenix near 40th St and Washington and offered live Greyhound racing from 1954 to 2009. Although live dog racing in Phoenix has ended, the clubhouse building is still in use for off-track betting and the parking lot regularly hosts park-and-swap events as of 2017.

What is the future of the Trotting Park?
Currently, it is on privately owned land. Although it has been closed for 50 years, I have not heard any stories in the news about the structure being threatened with demolition. UPDATE: As of January 2016, the facility is listed for sale by Colliers International for $16.5 million dollars. A buyer has not yet been announced.

My best non-professional guess is that demolishing the reinforced-concrete structure would be very expensive, given the size of the place. There would also have to be environmental safeguards in place as the Trotting Park was constructed before the US EPA ban on spray asbestos in 1973 and the ban on lead-based paint in 1978. It is also full of dried pigeon droppings, which could potentially contain airborne diseases that are harmful to humans.

 

References

1 Kiko, Sally. Phoenix Trotting Park History. (Dec 2010). Three Rivers Historical Society, Vol. 7, Issue 4.

2 Phoenix Trotting Park Suspends Racing Indefinitely. (14 Dec 1966). Harness Horse Magazine.

3 Buffalo Raceway History. (25 Jan 1999). Buffalo Raceway Website.

4 Werner, M.R. Racing Beneath The Peaks. (8 Mar 1965). Sports Illustrated Magazine.

5 A Guide to the Architecture of Metro Phoenix. AIA Press. (1983).


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