Friday, November 17, 2006

Phoenix Trotting Park: A Photo Essay














Since leaving Arizona in July of 2003 I have made the trek back and forth for holidays and various reasons. Every time I have made the drive I also notice, off the I-10 near Goodyear an amazing horse track about 20 miles on the outskirts of Phoenix. It's the first building other than Snyder's Pretzel's that tells me I am almost done with the drive. Last time I took the drive, after three years of driving by the thing, I finally decided to pull over and see it for myself. I always thought it was interesting as a piece of abandoned architecture but over the years as my palate for architecture has developed I realized what a stunning piece of Mid-Century Modernism it really was.

I pulled up on a No Tresspassing dirt road and hopped the fence. The first structure I came across was the building with the folded plate roof. It overlooked where the track must have been but now a grouping of abandoned trailers. My thoery was this was for the press or for private members. The track itself, which I was later to learn as called Phoenix Trotting Park, was a wonder in poured concrete and space age design. I entered the building and began walking up a long flight of stairs, I think I went up about six stories before I got too freaked out for my safety being alone as I was. With all the really tough Cypress Hill graffiti I didn't want to encounter some gang initiation or a scene out of The Birds. Many of the structual elements remain intact but almost everything apart from that is either destroyed or covered in bird shit.

I did some research and this is a compilation of the the information (word) I have found:

"The Phoenix Trotting Park, a horse racing track, was originally built in 1964 in Goodyear, Arizona. It opened in 1965 and was run for about two and a half seasons. The large, futuristically designed structure gave an optimistic look for the 1960s. It was originally supposed to be built for $3 million, but after Italian architects and contractors were brought in it wound up closer to $10 million, essentially bankrupting its builder, James Dunnigan, who had operated Buffalo Raceway. It was built of reinforced concrete, and could have withstood a direct hit by a hydrogen bomb... It is still standing, and some future travelers from space probably will regard it in the same way Stonehenge in Britain is regarded today... a monument built in the desert by sun worshipers. Sad story from start to finish." -Stan Bergstein

In 1998, movie crews chose the site to film an explosion for the movie "No Code of Conduct." No Code of Conduct is an action film involving cops and drug dealers. American Humane Association had been informed by production that there were no animals being used in the filming. Therefore, AHA was not on set and was not involved in the monitoring of any animals involved in the production.

The script called for the explosion of a drug warehouse at the end of the film and production chose to use an abandoned building at Phoenix Trotting Park in Goodyear, AZ. During the filming of the special effects explosion, hundreds of birds that were indigenous to the location were injured and killed. Although AHA was told by a production spokesperson that the company had attempted to clear the area and the building of the birds, there were several hundred birds still in the building at the time the explosives were detonated. According to a media source at the time of the incident, a representative from Arizona Department of Fish and Game approved the explosion. -ahafilm.info

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

You shouldn't have disturbed the trotting park site.

Phil Donohue said...

And why is that Anonymous?

Anonymous said...

Danger

Phil Donohue said...

Danger now? Then? In the future?... Anonymous?

Anonymous said...

oh phillip of the sun. the trotting park is sacred ground.

Phil Donohue said...

it's philip with one l but i can only take it personally from someone without anonymity. have you trotted the scared ground?

Anonymous said...

i have trotted, oh have i trotted.

Phil Donohue said...

Is that right? And what happened to you? Anonymous?

Jimmy said...

I've always wondered about that place. Bravo.

Anonymous said...

lets just say i found a cock and a half

Phil Donohue said...

It could be one of two who would ever mention the cock and a half

The Slider said...

I have often driven by that monument and had the same curiousity. I'm very glad to finally learn what it is, thanks Phil! Also, brilliant pictures man.

Cosmic Dan said...

Thanks for the info Phil. I am a new resident to AZ and have wondered what that place was all about since the first time I saw it. I carpeted a home in Buckeye a few weeks back and the homeowner said they had chariot races there and that the financing had mob ties, but she had no further info. A few days ago I carpeted a few rooms in another home in Buckeye and after passing it twice in a day I wrote down chariot races Cotton Rd. and put the piece of paper in my pocket. My wife gave me the contents of my pocket tonite before doing the wash and here I am.

Lalo@Yuma said...

Wow, very interesting site, and story. I always see the park on my travels to Phoenix and I wondered what it was. Looks pretty intact from the freeway. Phil, do you know who owns the property now?

Chris said...

This building is an amazing work of art. It really is a shame that it has gotten to the state it is in now. This building tells a huge story of the 60's... and of the false optimism in everyone's eyes when the building was crafted. It is a monument to the hard working individual in search of the American Dream.

I have yet to get close to the structure, as I live a ways away, but I plan on going in the very near future for a photo shoot. I can only hope that whoever makes it there to tell me to leave can understand why I am there. Because of the sheer beauty of the building, especially in it's current state. It is a powerful, awe inspiring, yet tragic sight.

Publisher, Arcadia News said...

Thank you for sharing your shots!

I tried to get into this area with a friend of mine to capture the desolate nature of this place, but made the egregious error of asking the local 'caretaker' if we could go out there and snap some photos.

I suppose it didn't help that we were in a BMW and he was washing blood off a three-foot lawnmower blade in his yard adjacent to his trailer. He was downright angry at the mere suggestion I offered, and I suspect if I had tried to flip him $100 to let us pass, that blade would have been plowed into my neck.

Different world out there. Indeed.

lisa67ford said...

Hi,I have been researching this track for several years. I am a photographer here in Phoenix. I went out there today and got some good photos. The guy I was with though would not go in. he got freaked out. Tahnks for the all the info, I heard it was owned by the mafia. You are right, it looks like a space age, for 1963 that a trip. I a going back soon.
Thanks
Lisa

novalab said...

I no longer live in the Phx. area but I remember this track well. Back in its first year of operation, they hosted Family Nights. My dad loaded us all up in the station wagon & off we went. The drive took forever but being a horse lover, I couldn't believe I was getting a chance to see it. I remember how HUGE it was. It was a beautiful facility with an oasis in the infield. I remember the rows of barns that you could see from the grandstand. The Italian architect that designed it was well known & had designed other horse racing tracks in Europe. I remember the TV adds for it. I always wondered what happened to it. I thought that for sure they would have mothballed & preserved it in order to reopen it some day when Phoenix grew out that far. I am sad to see the current pictures. What a marvel of modern 1960's architecture...gone to waste. I'll keep my beautiful memory pictures.

sam said...

i heard there is an underground city underneath the dog track. i have had friend experience this because they trekked down to the basement and found and elevator shaft going so far down that the flashlight they had would not show the bottom. There has also been paranormal activity there too that has been experienced. I will never set foot inside this place at night.

staci said...

I grew up in this area. In the 80-90's they would hold a swap meet in a parking structure under the building. At one time someone was trying to make a golf course around it.I read that they cannot use the building anymore because there is a crack in the foundation. They cant tear it down because it has esbestos(sp).

jake said...

A few hrs ago at 1:30 am me and 2 of my buddys went into the building and let me tell u how scarry that was, it's a shame to see it in the state it's in now. I wish it would become something cool again but km sure the property it's on is worth more that the building itself. I wanted to go into the underground parking area or whtever it may have been but I heard water running and feared that it was flooded. If anyone has anymore info on the once amazing place please post it I am very curious and would like to back during the day wen it's not scary as all hell

Kiki said...

My friends & I went into this structure about a month ago...it was late @ night & very creepy!! Theres a lot of gang graffitti & writing on the walls going up stairs saying that "You will Die!" Of course I got freaked out & encouraged my friends to turn around with me...on the up though we did see bats & heard bushes move which couldve just been a cat! Theres holes in the walls upstairs as though people peek through there & look @ anyone that comes through there! After reading comments about an underground parking structure I wanna go back maybe in the daytime to look @ the building all the way through! Thanks for the good photos Phil!

Anonymous said...

I want Original pictures of it i pass it all the time.

Jenna said...

My friends and I went there about a month ago during the day. This was before we had any idea of there being an underground parking garage. We did see the old, broken and beat up bathroom stalls with shattered porecelin toilets lined up in a row. One of the friends I was with decided to go back two weeks later with two of his buddies. The cops caught them, turned on their sirens and told them to exit the building immediately. They didn't get in trouble, only a stern talking to by the officers.

Anonymous said...

My friends and I went here today. It is really so fascinating. We were on a time limit so we didn't get to fully explore everything, but from what we did see, it was amazing. The first time we went at night, but couldn't explore much because our flashlight was weak. Today we went in full daylight and it was still pretty creepy. I am really interested in this underground mafia rumor. I hope it's easy to find! Ant tips on the quickest way to find it?

Anonymous said...

So, what is the best way to get in?

Is the entrance on the south side best or is there a better way?

For those of you who jumped the fence, which fence and where did you park?

Thanks!

Order Pills Antibacterial said...

This is good site to spent time on.

Anonymous said...

My brother and I went thru it at night about ten years ago. Chased off by police. Just curious to see it before it is destroyed. It must have been cool in it's time. Now just bird crap, carcases and cats running the place. Very nasty. No one wants the bill to remove the toxins and asbestos.

amoreena said...

enjoyed reading all the comments, i think i know the guy that called it a dog racing track...he came into the Circle K on Jackrabbit trail where i was working and asked for directions, sadly he looked like a worthless tweeker looking for trouble, or drus or both lol

Kellie said...

This is awesome...I've lived in Phoenix for 12 years and always see it when passing through Goodyear on the I-10 to go to California. I'm always very curious but have never had the chance to get closer. Really interesting information and great shots!

GoodNewShar said...

Anyone know how to contact the 'owner', or if the city has any 'control'? I have an amazing artist whose masterpiece requires 1/2 acre (on each side) to display...and needs a grandstand to view. This would not only be a great venue for his works but a great revenue to owner/city, etc. (check out Vision of Unity and Peace!) Let's try to make this place 'be' something again! Jobs, 'culture' , a place for people across the world to visit, etc. Any help or suggestions appreciated. thanks...

Anonymous said...

The stucture is owned by Delaware North Companies(DNC INC)CEO Jeremy Jacobs.

Anonymous said...

Being that Phoenix Trotting Park is owned by Delaware North, It could someday be re-opened if the state would approve (Racino's)slot machines at racetracks! DNC also owns Black Canyon Dog Track, Apache,Yuma and Phoenix, which could all be re-opened with the approval of slots. The Indians seem to have the upper hand at the moment, so it would be a slight miracle if that were to happen!

Publisher, Arcadia News said...

The site is laden with asbestos. Until land dev comes back strong, this spot will probably remain as-is.

Heather said...

I went here yesterday and had fun exploring. I compared your pictures to mine and it's interesting to see how much more run-down it has become. Some of your pictures still have glass in the windows and the only glass I ever saw was broken on the ground. Also, the first floor escalator is more torn apart these days.

View my present day pics here.