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Phoenix Trotting Park: Abandoned, But Not Forgotten
By Trevor Freeman


Photo by Trevor Freeman

If you've ever ventured out to the west valley community of Goodyear, Arizona, chances are you've seen the Phoenix Trotting Park alongside Interstate 10. In fact, you'd almost have to be blind to miss it. The gigantic, sandy colored grandstand has stood unused for over four decades. It is a monument to failed enterprise, to the harness racing community, and to the sweeping, futuristic designs of Italian architects. The Phoenix Trotting Park is undoubtedly one of the most interesting buildings in town, due to its unique location and its incredible history.

The Trotting Park was the second harness racing facility to be funded by James J. Dunnigan of Hamburg, New York. His first venture, the Buffalo Raceway, has been operated continuously since 1942 and is still open today. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the Phoenix Trotting Park. Located in Goodyear, Arizona, the facility predated Interstate 10 by about two decades. Access to the park was possible via dirt roads, and the parking lot was never paved. At about 20 miles from downtown Phoenix, the park's remote location was a major factor in the low rates of attendance.

Constructed of reinforced concrete, the grandstand was built to last a lifetime. Originally budgeted at $3 million dollars, the park's costs soared to $10 million after Italian architects were brought in to assist in the design phases. Their influence can still be seen today, as the wavelike points of the grandstand roof catch the eyes of passing motorists along Interstate 10. With its east and west entrances sporting long covered walkways, the park gently beckons visitors to come inside for a closer look. The north entrance is very grand and featured a large escalator inside of a cavernous atrium. Surrounded on two sides by massive rectangular windows, riding to the top must have been like ascending into the heavens.

 


Photo by Trevor Freeman

From the escalator, visitors can see the row of rounded-triangle windows that evoke images of the classic 1970's Jetsons cartoons. The impressive grandstand ensured that spectators would not miss a minute of the action, thanks to the massive array of steel frame and glass windows. For the wealthiest customers, a rooftop skybox was available offering the best possible view of the entire track. Everything about the Trotting Park gives visitors a feel of large, open space. Between the concrete staircases that appear to float in midair to the curving lines of the roof, it seems as if the park were not merely constructed by man, but that it might have sprang forth from the Earth upon which it sits.


Photo by Trevor Freeman

While the park's construction bankrupted Dunnigan, he made every effort to keep the track open as long as possible and was optimistic that it would reopen again someday. Despite his efforts, the Phoenix Trotting Park was opened in 1965 and closed in December of 1966, less than two years after the grand opening.

Although James Dunnigan's ideas of reopening the track fell through, the facility has not remained completely silent these past four decades. In the year 2000 a Hollywood film crew selected the Trotting Park to film an explosion film for the movie "No Code of Conduct." The producers ended up upsetting animal rights activists when their explosion ended up killing large numbers of birds who now inhabit the grandstand.


Photo by Trevor Freeman

Today the park sits abandoned by the roadside, yet not forgotten by the residents of Goodyear and all who pass by and wonder about it. Currently the park is on private property and visitors are discouraged from stopping to check it out. The local police and property owners keep a close eye on the facility in order to discourage trespassing and vandalism.


Photo by Trevor Freeman

Sources:
Mi-Harness.com
BuffaloRaceway.com

 

 

 

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