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Phoenix Trotting Park – better known as “that thing south of I-10 you see on the way to California” – is an abandoned building located in Goodyear, Arizona. Originally built as horse racing track, it has been sitting abandoned for 51 years and remains a reminder to a different time.
The Phoenix Trotting Park was built in 1964 under the vision of a man by the name of James Dunnigan. Dunnigan was a well-respected horseracing financier from New York who was in charge of the building of The Buffalo Raceway in Hamburg, New York. In the early 1960s, Dunnigan envisioned a grand horseracing park on this remote tract of land in the middle of the desert.
During the planning of the building, initial costs were to be around $3 million. The actual cost was actually $10 million. Despite that drawback, the track opened in 1965 and a whopping 12,000 people showed up to see this fantastic structure. However, the park had
a very turbulent history. The remote location and lack of an easy access road was the largest issue. Interstate 10 didn’t reach this far until the mid-1970s so visitors were forced to take lesser roads. Dunnigan countered this by offering incentives for people to visit the track, including free parking and admission on occasion. This wouldn’t last. Attendance wasn’t steady and the remote location – in addition to competition of other Valley racing tracks – proved to be too much.
After only two and a half seasons, the park was closed in 1966. Equipment was moved to other racing tracks. This was a huge blow to Dunnigan. With the cost of the park as high as it was and the surprisingly low turnout, the Phoenix Trotting Park never stood a chance.
The track sat abandoned for 32 years. In 1998, the trotting park was chosen as the location for a less than glorious end – explosions and fire. The movie No Code of Conduct, featuring a father/son team played by Charlie & Martin Sheen and directed by the one and only Bret Michaels (yes, THAT Bret Michaels) used the trotting park in the closing scene. Explosives were placed inside of the grandstands and detonated, blowing out all the windows on the large, front face of the building. The structure was unharmed but was now exposed to the elements. After filming the movie, the track has continued to sit abandoned.
The track is currently owned by the company Roles Inn of America, who operate an RV park just across the canal to the south of the track. The track is on private property and is actively patrolled by hired security guards (CPS security) and Goodyear Police. Trespassing could land you a serious fine – don’t do it. We have talked to the security guards about the property and they said the current owners aren’t interested in letting anyone onto the property, not even for just photography/documentation purposes. They cited the structure as being unsafe due to its age and a public health hazard due to the large amount of bird poop and asbestos it has. They did let us stand behind the fence and take some pictures and fly our drone around, but nothing else.
Today, this abandoned trotting park stands as a testament to a long gone era. The vision of Dunnigan sits today, in a slightly more populated area, guarded and shut down to the public. The very opposite of what he wanted. Doing the research for this piece, we came across a very informative – and new – website that goes into more depth. Consider checking out www.phoenixtrottingpark.com for more.
"History of the Phoenix Trotting Park." The History of Phoenix Trotting Park. Phoenix Trotting Park: Abandoned Harness Racing Track in Phoenix, AZ, n.d. Web. 18 Jan. 2016. <http://www.phoenixtrottingpark.com/history/>.
"Interstate 10 in Arizona." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 18 Jan. 2016. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstate_10_in_Arizona>.
"No Code of Conduct." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 18 Jan. 2016. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_Code_of_Conduct>.
"Phoenix Trotting Park." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 18 Jan. 2016. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoenix_Trotting_Park>.