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Monday, December 18, 2006

Yonkers Revisited for the First Time

- When Yonkers was finally set to reopen, I linked to a quote from Joe Faraldo, the head of the harness horseman association; talking about the lack of an infield tote board, he told the NY Daily News that it "has been ordered and it should arrive on Monday."

That was on Nov 11. Today, there is no tote board. But it looks as if it may have finally arrived. Or parts of it anyway.

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I was in the neighborhood today, so I stopped by Yonkers Raceway to inspect the new digs, and perhaps check out some simulcasting for the late double from Chester Downs. While the slots were very much up and running, it was hard to believe that there was an active racetrack there.

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That's the old clubhouse on the left; it's the only part of the old racetrack left. The building going up to the right of it, which looks mostly done, will house more slot machines for an eventual total of 7,500. It doesn't appear as if there will even be any windows overlooking the action in the prime viewing area as pacers and trotters come down the stretch. Here's a closer look from the apron; it's basically a construction zone.

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The old winner's circle, now just part of the scenery.

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These seats are perhaps the last remaining useful relic from years past. Located on the clubhouse turn, they used to extend all the way up to the outer rail, and you'd get a really cool and close-up view of the horses there. Not a great place to see the finish, but it was an interesting angle, and on a summer's evening, especially during daylight hours, a very pleasant spot to hang out and watch the horses warming up for later races. Those seats are my most recent memories of nights spent there after the grandstand was vacated (and later demolished), and I recall sitting there thinking that Yonkers had become a "nice little track," as opposed to its grandeur of the past. Today I was sitting there thinking that it barely seemed to qualify as a track at all.

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And there amidst the ongoing construction, the doors to paradise.

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Rows and rows of machines. The entire former first floor of the clubhouse - and anyone who knows the place knows that's a decent chunk of space - devoted to slots; the second floor too. The old Empire Terrace room is now a restaurant, and the area that actually used to be an outdoor terrace - and a major pot-smoking area - is now an extension to the building devoted to slots.

Oh, and that simulcasting I wanted to check out? After looking hard, I found the signs directing one to the 3rd floor (simulcasting) and 4th (live harness and simulcasts).

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Hmm, not much action here. How about the 4th floor?

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Well, they're required by law only to conduct live racing, so why bother with simulcasting?

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The old clubhouse dining room overlooking the track is still there, along with some held over artwork. And lighting fixtures.

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This billboard located right across the street is a reminder that competition isn't far away.

5 Comments:

Late Scratch said...

Well, Alan, if I had been in the holiday spirit, your piece on Yonkers would have knocked it right out of me. How sad. I remember Yonkers before the Meadowlands opened and it was an exciting place to be. Packed grandstands, the best harness racing, good entertainment. What I hope we are not seeing in your pictures is the future of the Big A.

But I fear if the slots take center stage, that's precisely what will happen. When the second name on the Excelsior web-site is Richard Fields, casino developer, that really scares me.

I guess I can get past the alleged Senator Joe's involvenment with a now minor player at Empire Racing because I believe the horsemen are in charge there and my sincere hope is that they wouldn't let Aqueduct or Belmont become Yonkerized.

changky said...

Good morning from San Francisco! You are right! Horseplayers come last because they want us to disappear and refind ourselves in front of a machine. Belmont is pre-mere! But for how long. Barry Changky SCHECH-ter
changkyscheck@yahoo.com turned on to you by Brad Toteboard Edwards. is that a monicher or what?

Kashatreya said...

Great photo essay. I have a lot of memories from going to Yonkers as a kid with my grandparents when they babysat my brother & I over weekends, and we'd make the trek up to there on a Saturday night. (Roy Rogers first though, so Gramps could get his roast beef sandwich; I kid you not.) I can't say I have any memories of the place being remotely luxurious, but it was always fine, especially after you left the first floor. (Wasn't there a "swanky" parlor on the 2nd floor with couches, etc., if you paid a couple of bucks to enter?) And there was always that old Caddy parked near the entrance. The photos just brought back a ton of memories, and remind me of one path of how I got into loving racing---thanks a million.

Anonymous said...

Wonder what happened to the caddy?

Thanks for posting this, was not sure there was even a simulcast room.

I sent two emails to the contact to try and arrange for a group outing in honor of a deceasded friend who loved Yonkers, wanted to sponsor a race and everything, 30 or 40 people for dinner etc, and no one returned my email.

So sad.

alan said...

>>Wonder what happened to the caddy?

Probably got auctioned off on Ebay.

The simulcast room is nice, but I can't imagine it holds much more than 125 people or so.