On the last night of live racing at Great Lakes Downs back in November of 2007, I asked a security guard if I could step onto the track after the night’s card had concluded and scoop up a baggie of dirt so I would have a souvenir of the track where I fell in love with the sport of horse racing. I was denied.
This Thursday, I have the opportunity to get my redemption.
The second installment of the two-week auction of anything of value at the former Great Lakes Downs in Muskegon gives bidders the opportunity to buy the actual dirt that hosted Michigan’s finest Thoroughbreds for the better part of this decade.
This auction has been in the making for nearly a year. The property was sold to the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians last July and the tribe has expressed little interest in keeping it a racetrack, instead opting to work toward building another casino. Might as well get as much money out of what’s there before getting rid of the rest.
They are literally pulling things off the walls for this sale. Last week’s installment stripped down the bar where I celebrated my 21st birthday along with the rest of the plant itself. Each and every window looking out to the track was put up for bids, and as a track with its entire grandstand indoors, that is a lot of glass. Every chair, every handrail, every coffee maker…if it wasn’t bolted down, it appears it was being sold – and if it was bolted down, the buyer is responsible for removal, so it’s their problem.
Looking at how the track has deteriorated in the year and a half since the last horse passed the wire is painful, almost post-apocalyptic. The racing surface is full of weeds, as is the paddock and winner’s circle. They’re selling off the staircase I would bound up before the races and would more cautiously climb down at night (not drunkenly, the steps were just unevenly proportioned) while going over the events of the evening with my friends and family. Memory Lane isn’t such a great place to be when everyone on the street has been evicted. Just looking at things as inconsequential as a certain section of fence or the perpetually unmanned guard shack by the jock’s room make me feel like I was just there. I was just there. It hasn’t been that long, but a little neglect can make a place change in a hurry.
Here are a few other items offered this week and last you’ll only find at a racetrack liquidation sale. Some of these items have already been sold, so be sure to check their availability if you covet such objects. I wish I had the space for some of these things. I would have the coolest backyard around.
– The shell of the Great Lakes Downs tote board
– Camera towers
– Backstretch pole barns
– The stalls under the pole barns
– Highway signs advertising the track
– The paddock stalls
– Leftover GLD Memorabilia (I wanted this so badly. If the buyer of this lot is reading this, contact me. I’ll double what you paid for it.)
– Various track signage
– The turnstile at the front entrance
– A crapload of Kentucky Derby glasses
– Old-school S.A.M Autotote betting machines (If you bought a single-machine lot, the double offer goes out to you as well. I have no practical use for an inactive S.A.M., but it would be pretty cool just to say I have one.)
– GLD trash cans (There was one trash bin by the jock’s room that was from the old Detroit Race Course. I am curious as to its whereabouts.)
– The scale house
– The inside rail
The meticulous nature of the items being offered in the sale all but confirms that Great Lakes Downs will never again host another race. In fact, the complete stripping of the property suggests the plant and surrounding area will likely be leveled to clear room for the tribe’s proposed casino. Simply put, this is a damn shame.
I regret having missed the first auction. Had former Turf Linker Andrew not alerted me to them, I probably would have missed the second one as well. This is what happens when final class projects keep me from checking Google Alerts. I miss important things like this.
I would have greatly enjoyed getting myself some keepsakes from the track where I spent some of the happiest days of my life. While the second auction primarily focuses on the backstretch, apron and other outdoor areas of the property, I am going to keep my eye on a few items that may not be immediately identifiable with the track, but will have sentimental value.
If anything else, going to pick up the items means I’ll get one last chance to say goodbye. Maybe I’ll finally get the chance to sneak out on to the track and get that baggie of dirt.
I miss my racetrack.
For more information on this weekend’s auction, click here.