Golden Gate Fields to be auctioned in February

By Eric Young, San Francisco Business Times
Thursday, October 29, 2009

The bankrupt owner of Albany’s Golden Gate Fields will auction the horse racing track next February as part of ongoing effort to raise funds to repay creditors.

Magna Entertainment Corp., which has been in Chapter 11 proceedings since March, got bankruptcy court approval to put Golden Gate Fields up for sale on Feb. 25, 2010. Bids are due Feb. 10.

Other Magna tracks being offered at auction at the same time include Santa Anita Park, host to the 2009 Breeders Cup, and Gulfstream Park, home of the Florida Derby.

The nation’s biggest operator of horse racing tracks, Magna operates nine facilities. It has already sold some facilities, including Thistledown racetrack near Cleveland and Remington Park in Oklahoma City. Magna got bankruptcy approval this week to sell Texas’ Lone Star Park for $47.9 million to Global Gaming Solutions LLC.

It is not yet clear who might be interested in bidding on Golden Gate Fields, a 150-acre waterfront property. But other Magna properties have drawn strong interest from other gambling companies.

But bidders might include buyers who would close the track and redevelop the property. A number of development proposals for the site have been floated in recent years.

Most recently, Los Angeles-based developer Rick Caruso wanted to build a $300 million outdoor mall and apartments on the site. Many Albany residents rose in opposition, and in 2006 Caruso pulled the plug on the idea.

Before that, Ontario, Canada-based Magna, which bought the track for $77 million in 1999, proposed a 700,000-square-foot project anchored by a luxury hotel and an upscale farmer’s market. That plan, too, died amid resident opposition.

The future of Golden Gate Fields stirs passions among Albany’s 17,000 residents. The 68-year-old track employs close to 500 people and is a big contributor to the city’s bottom line, dumping $1.14 million in property, wagering and other taxes into the city’s $31 million budget for the 2008-09 fiscal year. That figure does not include other taxes that go to the city’s school district.

But there is also a strong desire among some area residents to do away with the track to allow for more open space to complement existing trails, waterfront and grass areas in the surrounding Eastshore State Park.

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