Finish line for Bay Meadows nears

Racing at Bay Meadows will be finished by next summer — thanks to a schedule agreed upon by track owners from around Northern California on Monday — paving the way for redevelopment of the storied site into a massive residential and economic center.

The end of racing in 2008 means the loss of more then 500 jobs at the track and approximately $600,000 in revenue to the city. The only scheduled racing left after spring is the two weeks of racing in August at the San Mateo County Fair.

The redevelopment will drastically alter the face of San Mateo, replacing 83 acres and 73 years of sports history with a mini-village that will affect the business, traffic and commercial atmosphere of San Mateo.

The California Horse Racing Board must still approve the schedule, determined at a meeting Monday, at its regularly scheduled Sept. 27 meeting.

Bay Meadows President Jack Liebau has vowed to keep the track’s 900 stalls open through the end of the year, as long as the site remains “a safe place to train horses.” Other track officials — such as Golden Gate Fields General Manager Robert Hartman — worry that promises to remain open will be invalid once redevelopment begins, since the site will then be no longer safe to train horses.

By potentially housing animals until the end of the year, Bay Meadows will give officials at Golden Gate Fields and the Alameda County Fair in the East Bay a chance to find lodging for the horses that will be displaced when Bay Meadows closes. The approximately 2,075 stables at those locations are almost completely full now.

The track’s owner, the Bay Meadows Land Co., has made no secret of its desire to push the transformation of the park into 750,000 square feet of commercial space, 100,000 square feet of retail and 1,067 housing units out of the gates.

But until heavy machinery replaces hooves on the track, Thoroughbred Owners of California President Drew Couto said the open stables will contribute to the “healthy future” of Northern California racing.

“I think it helps those venues who plan to be in the industry longer and it gives them time to make the improvements they have planned for,” Couto said.

The first half of the year is also considered a more lucrative racing period, because publicity generated by the Triple Crown races — the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes — held in May and June.

jgoldman@examiner.com

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