Hollywood Park, which opens its thoroughbred meeting in Inglewood today amid its usual myriad financial woes, is using paint, bricks and blacktop to put on a happier face for the 68-day season, which runs through July 24.
Post time for the first race each day will be 1:30 p.m., with racing conducted Wednesday through Sunday, except for a few special holidays.
By Hollywood Park's past standards--topped by the $50-million Cary Grant Pavilion--this year's $200,000 in refurbishments are modest, and refreshingly tasteful. But no one--not even Marje Everett, chairman of the board and chief executive officer, is pretending that mere cosmetics will make a difference.
"I'd love to spend two or three million dollars on a whole range of projects," Everett said Tuesday. "But it just isn't possible."
Spring and summer attendance at the vast racing emporium has been steadily decreasing since 1983, bottoming out with last year's 20,686 daily average. (The just-concluded Santa Anita meeting averaged 25,463).
However, the help of a satellite network of off-track betting locales apparently has been enough to keep Hollywood Park creditors at bay.
"We may not be as liquid as we would like to be, but I hope we won't be seen as financially distressed," Everett said. "Our company is worth a lot of money, and that's why a lot of people would like to take it away from the stockholders."
Chief among those interested in taking control of the track's future is Thomas Gamel, the Denver manufacturer and horse owner who holds 5.6% of Hollywood Park stock. Gamel, citing a whole list of financial failures, has proposed terminating racing at Hollywood Park and turning it into a simulcasting facility for Santa Anita and Del Mar races and a training center for thoroughbreds.
Reached in Hawaii earlier this week, Gamel reiterated his intention to press for an end to Everett's management of Hollywood Park.
"She can paint and fix up here and there, but that's not what's needed," Gamel said earlier this week. "Frankly, it would take $25 to $50 million to put Hollywood Park back into first-class shape.
"You've either got to go in there and do it right--which means spending a lot of money--or tear down all the junk and leave what's good, like the Pavilion, which is a good simulcast facility."
In any event, there will be racing for at least another meeting and today's Debonair Stakes for 3-year-olds, going seven furlongs, could be the setting for Bill Shoemaker's 1,000th stakes victory.
He rides Basic Exchange for Fred Hooper, the famed Alabama road builder who was consulted extensively by Everett when the current Hollywood Park dirt track was laid down in the mid-1980s.
Shoemaker, 57, and in his final season of competition, will have his work cut out aboard Basic Exchange. The opposition will include Ed and Natalie Friendly's Timeless Answer, Aaron Jones' Sabulose, Claiborne Farm's Lode and Georgia Ridder's Over the Pole.