Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Hollywood Park decision continued to next week


A vote by the Inglewood City Council that could determine the fate of Hollywood Park had been scheduled for Thursday night but was continued until Wednesday of next week.

A plan to start work on a massive retail and residential complex on the Hollywood Park site in about a year is awaiting city council approval. Construction work on the development would end racing at the historic racetrack, which opened in 1938.

A public hearing in the council chambers at City Hall on the development issue scheduled for Thursday night drew a crowd of nearly 200 people, necessitating a continuance.

The development project, called Hollywood Park Tomorrow, is being undertaken by the Bay Area firm of Wilson, Meany, Sullivan.

A model of the proposed $2-billion project was shown to Inglewood city leaders on March 12.

Hollywood Park President Jack Liebau said at the time that officials had not been given a timetable for work to begin.

“We are operating on the assumption racing will continue at Hollywood Park indefinitely,” he said.

The track recently cut back to four days of racing per week and Liebau said on Wednesday that the track will seek approval from the California Horse Racing Board to continue with that schedule through the end of the current meeting on July 19.

The board’s next meeting is scheduled for June 5 at Santa Anita. Because of the Memorial Day holiday, there was live racing at Hollywood Park on Monday but none on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday.

The track currently is averaging crowds of more than 6,000 on race days and about 9,600 on Friday nights. Those figures represent increases from the fall meeting last year, when the averages were 4,500 and 6,300 for five days of racing per week.

Chris Meany, a partner in the firm of Wilson, Meany, Sullivan, said this week that the track would be given six months’ notice before construction would begin. He also said racing would continue “up to the last minute.”

The new complex is scheduled to include dozens of shops and restaurants, a 15-screen movie theater, a refurbished casino that already is on the site, 3,000 residential units, 75,000 square feet of office space, a 300-room hotel, 25 acres of parking, and a four-acre site that could be a school.

CHRB Chairman John Harris, for one, is skeptical.

“In today’s world, nothing is certain,” he said. “The real estate market is so weak that they are better off putting any development plans in the freezer for a few years. Or better yet, maybe they can sell it to someone who wants to operate it as a racetrack. The real estate value will always be there.”