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Beulah Park Shuts Down After 91 Years Of Horseracing
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It’s the end of an era in Ohio gambling history. After 91 years of thoroughbred horseracing, Grove Cityâ€™s Beulah Park shuts its gates. Even though long-time customers and workers saw the end coming, it doesnâ€™t make it any easier.
Horses have been thundering down the Beulah Park racetrack since 1923. It was Ohioâ€™s first thoroughbred racetrack. In its heyday thousands of people bet on the horses. Millions of dollars were won and lost.
But the trackâ€™s popularity has been in decline in recent years. Employee Mark Ostrander, who helps calculate the odds, remembers better times at Beulah Park.
â€œItâ€™s really went downhill the last years. I know what they bet every day and it ainâ€™t what it used to be,â€ Ostrander says.
Q: At the high point, what would it have been like?
â€œI would say eight years ago they were still betting $1 million a week here,â€ 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 Ohioâ€™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 Parkâ€™s closing has been hard for residents to accept.
â€œIâ€™ve lived in Grove City my whole life and this has just been something we took for granted,â€ says Mary Molchan who has fond memories.
â€œI can remember Saturdays as a child Broadway would just be packed with vehicles coming to the racetrack. And now itâ€™s gone. And itâ€™s sad,â€ Molchan says.
Molchan joined several hundred people last weekend for a farewell at the track. Grove City mayor Ike Stage:
â€œOkay. Welcome everyone if you could find a seat, we will begin. And Iâ€™m not calling this a celebration; Iâ€™m calling it a decommissioning of Beulah Park,â€ Stage said.
Louise Goss of Dublin brought photographs of her father in the Beulah Park winnerâ€™s circle in the 1930s. She says her dad was one of the trackâ€™s best horse trainers. Goss had mixed emotions about the closing.
â€œItâ€™s been dying for quite a while. Itâ€™s kind of time to get it over with,â€ 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 â€œterrible;â€ and he blames casinos.
â€œHorse racingâ€™s on its way out, I think. These casinos donâ€™t care about the horseman. All they care about is the money they can make,â€ Jahn says.
Through the years Jahn has developed solid friendships with many of the racetrackâ€™s employees. Though some workers will transfer to Youngstown, many, like housekeeper Patricia Bradley, will have to look for something else.
â€œIt hurts. I love this place because I love my customers,â€ Bradley says.
As Beulah Parkâ€™s sounds, smells and excitement fade, Grove Cityâ€™s focus turns to redeveloping 213 acres of prime real estate in the cityâ€™s center.