The pounding of hoofs and the scent of hay and manure from Beulah Park's stables will be gone in April, ending almost a century of thoroughbred racing in Grove City. The track has been a big part of the city's identity, employing its residents, attracting a wagering public and helping to fuel its economy.
The pounding of hoofs and the scent of hay and manure from Beulah Park’s stables will be gone in April, ending almost a century of thoroughbred racing in Grove City.
The track has been a big part of the city’s identity, employing its residents, attracting a wagering public and helping to fuel its economy.
City leaders recognize the track’s importance but also welcome the opportunity to replace the 213-acre facility with a mix of uses. Some have speculated that the track will become warehouses, homes or even an amusement park.
Whatever happens, City Manager Charles W. “Chuck” Boso said he wants his administration to play an active role.
“To have 213 acres for redevelopment ... we have it right here in front of us,” said Boso on a recent tour of the track. “It seems like the stars are lined up for success.”
The city has created a framework for what it wants:
• Monuments and public art “to honor the site’s historic significance.”
• Park space for popular city events such as the annual fireworks and hot-air-balloon festival.
• New streets and bike paths to connect neighborhoods that Beulah Park separated.
• A return on investment to the city.
Boso knows the ground well: As a young man in the 1970s, he worked in the stables and sold beer at the grandstand. Billy Idol, Frank Sinatra and other acts played there.
Boso envisions public space for concerts, fireworks and other special events. North of the track, new streets might connect condominiums, apartments and upscale homes to the existing grid. West of the property, he sees a network of new roads and bike paths allowing neighborhoods easier access to the Town Center shops along Broadway.
Opportunity comes with mixed emotions, residents in the Beulah subdivision say.
“I kind of like it the way it is,” said Glenn Price, 67, a resident since 1987. “I could sit on my back porch and listen to concerts, if the wind was right.”
He also inhaled the strong odor of horse droppings, which he said “almost smells like country."
With a large Wal-Mart distribution center already on the track site’s northern edge, residents don’t want to see more traffic or trucks, said Cassie Wiard, 29, who said her 9-year-old daughter would enjoy a park or bike paths.
That fits with city leaders’ plans. They don’t want much, if any, retail. Grove City already has 45 square feet of retail space per resident — twice the national average, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers.
The track stables and outbuildings are owned by Penn National Gaming, which announced last year that Beulah’s racing license would be moved to northeastern Ohio. The site was listed for sale in February for $9.6 million. Penn also owns Hollywood Casino Columbus
“We do have a commitment to (Grove City) to do anything in our power to help them get the land developed in a way that they want,” said Bob Tennenbaum, Penn spokesman. He declined to say what, if any, assistance the company would provide after the sale.Three developers have expressed interest, and one is “actively negotiating” a deal, Tennenbaum said.
Tax incentives and state money should make the sale and development easier, Boso said. The property is in a community reinvestment area, which provides city property-tax exemptions to landowners who make improvements. And part of the agreement to transfer the racing license provides Grove City with$3 million in Ohio Department of Development funds for a variety of improvements.
Pizzuti Cos. already has committed to spending as much as $15 million to convert City Hall and areas nearby into offices and a restaurant. And up to $10 million are being spent on a new public library in the Town Center.
“That makes it very enticing for a developer coming in,” Boso said.