Beulah Park Shuts Down After 91 Years Of Horseracing

Listen to the Story

In the winner's circle at Beulah Park(Photo: Sam Hendren / WOSU News)
In the winner's circle at Beulah Park(Photo: Sam Hendren / WOSU News)

It’s the end of an era in Ohio gambling history. After 91 years of thoroughbred horseracing, Grove City’s Beulah Park shuts its gates. Even though long-time customers and workers saw the end coming, it doesn’t make it any easier.

Horses have been thundering down the Beulah Park racetrack since 1923. It was Ohio’s first thoroughbred racetrack. In its heyday thousands of people bet on the horses. Millions of dollars were won and lost.

A horse runs during one of the final races at Beulah Park in Grove City.

A horse runs during one of the final races at Beulah Park in Grove City. (Photo: Sam Hendren / WOSU News)

But the track’s popularity has been in decline in recent years. Employee Mark Ostrander, who helps calculate the odds, remembers better times at Beulah Park.

“It’s really went downhill the last years. I know what they bet every day and it ain’t what it used to be,” Ostrander says.

Q: At the high point, what would it have been like?

“I would say eight years ago they were still betting $1 million a week here,” Ostrander says.

The lottery, casinos, on-line gambling: all have cut into horseracing revenues around the country. Beulah Park could not survive the losses.

Several recent developments accelerated the downfall. Central Ohio’s other horse track, Scioto Downs added slot machines. Penn National Gaming bought Beulah Park at about the same time it opened its Hollywood Casino on the west side of Columbus. Penn National then won approval to move its thoroughbred racing operation from Central Ohio to just outside Youngstown.

Beulah Park sign displays track conditions

A sign at Beulah Park displays the track conditions. (Photo: Sam Hendren / WOSU News)

Beulah Park’s closing has been hard for residents to accept.

“I’ve lived in Grove City my whole life and this has just been something we took for granted,” says Mary Molchan who has fond memories.

“I can remember Saturdays as a child Broadway would just be packed with vehicles coming to the racetrack. And now it’s gone. And it’s sad,” Molchan says.

Molchan joined several hundred people last weekend for a farewell at the track. Grove City mayor Ike Stage:

“Okay. Welcome everyone if you could find a seat, we will begin. And I’m not calling this a celebration; I’m calling it a decommissioning of Beulah Park,” Stage said.

Louise Goss of Dublin brought photographs of her father in the Beulah Park winner’s circle in the 1930s. She says her dad was one of the track’s best horse trainers. Goss had mixed emotions about the closing.

“It’s been dying for quite a while. It’s kind of time to get it over with,” Goss said.

74-year-old John Jahn of Grove City has been coming to Beulah Park for about 50 years. He says horse racing is in his blood; he calls the closing “terrible;” and he blames casinos.

“Horse racing’s on its way out, I think. These casinos don’t care about the horseman. All they care about is the money they can make,” Jahn says.

Through the years Jahn has developed solid friendships with many of the racetrack’s employees. Though some workers will transfer to Youngstown, many, like housekeeper Patricia Bradley, will have to look for something else.

“It hurts. I love this place because I love my customers,” Bradley says.

As Beulah Park’s sounds, smells and excitement fade, Grove City’s focus turns to redeveloping 213 acres of prime real estate in the city’s center.

Comments