Tag Archives: Little River Band of Ottawa Indians

Michigan Notebook: November 15, 2010

According to the track’s Facebook page, Pinnacle Race Course will be featured in Tuesday’s episode of police drama Detroit-187. It is not known whether scenes will take place on location, or if the track will simply be mentioned by one of the show’s characters. The press release for the upcoming episode does not mention the track, but one of the characters is a high-stakes poker player. The show will air at 10 p.m. Eastern on ABC.

– The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians has unveiled a website outlining its plans for a casino and resort on the former site of Great Lakes Downs. The site includes concept art of the casino, endorsements from local and state government and the steps necessary to make the casino a reality. A compact amendment was signed between the tribe and Gov. Jennifer Granholm to proceed with the casino, but it has not been carried through by the state Legislature. The Muskegon Chronicle reports that if the compact amendment is not acted upon by Dec. 31, it will die in committee. Additional discussion on the proposed casino can be found in the Chronicle story, including arguments for and against the plans.

– The Michigan Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association is collecting donations for its annual year-end silent auction. If any readers or their businesses are interested in donating an item or service, feel free to contact myself or MTOBA directly. For more information on the MTOBA banquet, and for contact information to make reservations, click here.

– In a small bit of chest-thumping, a snippet of my epitaph on the Breeders’ Cup Classic in Thoroughbred Times TODAY was listed as a “Quote of the Day” on Horse Circle, a blog operated by an Ocala, Fla.-based Thoroughbred breeder. I am honored that readers find my work quoteworthy. I hope to supply bulletin board material to you all for years to come.

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Michigan Notebook: December 11, 2009

– It appears some significant hurdles are about to be cleared on the road to building a casino on the former site of Great Lakes Downs. The Muskegon Chronicle reports the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians is nearing an agreement with the township and county governments over municipal services for the proposed building. The agreement outline services including law enforcement and fire protection, and how the tribe would pay for it. From where that money would come appears to be one of the major points of debate still on the table.

After an agreement is reached, the document will be put in front of the Fruitport Township Board, the Muskegon County Board and the tribal council for approval. The tribe will also require approval from the U.S. Secretary of the Interior and Michigan’s governor (whomever it may be at the time) for the land to be put into trust in order for it to be used for gambling.

– Speaking of Great Lakes Downs, Google Reader kicked up an interesting note this morning regarding a mention of the track in a handicapping book. In fact, an entire chapter is dedicated to the defunct Muskegon oval in “Small Track Betting: Pick More Winners Using This Sure-Fire Eight -Point System of Race Analysis” by C.N. Richardson.

In the chapter, titled “Great Lakes Downs”, Richardson outlines the track’s history and that of Michigan racing in general.  The chapter also discusses the 2006 race fixing scandal that forced seven riders off many of the nation’s tracks, including GLD regulars T.D. Houghton, Joe Judice and Jose H. Delgado. Richardson continues to discuss race fixing to cash exotic tickets, then gives an overview of the track’s trainer and jockey colonies. He finishes by handicapping a few races on a GLD card.

The book was written in 2007, and considering the manner in which the author breaks down the track, it must have hit the shelves before the track shut its doors. There are a few grammar and continuity errors (It’s Terry Houghton, not Timothy; some misspelled horse names; occasionally referring to the track as “Great Lake”, which is surprisingly common throughout all turf writing), but it is always interesting to see Michigan tracks become the focus of an author’s pen (or in modern times, his or her keyboard). The only other instance of GLD playing a significant role in a book that immediately comes to mind was in “Horseplayers: Life at the Track” by Ted McClelland. The author traveled to Muskegon with infamous racetrack bucket-lister McChump and gave a less-than-favorable review. Otherwise, it is a very fine read in its own right.

All things considered, “Small Track Betting” is officially on the Christmas list.

To purchase “Small Track Betting” from Amazon, click here.

To read the chapter on Great Lakes Downs, click here.

Crain’s Detroit Business reports Pinnacle Race Course is one of Michigan’s top economic investments of the last two years. Pinnacle ranked 25th among companies receiving MEGA/brownfield incentives in 2008-09, with an investment of $142 million. Additional consideration was given to each company’s ranking among the state’s largest construction projects of 2009 (Pinnacle was #14).

The largest investment on the list came from Clairvoyant Energy Solar Panel Manufacturing Inc. and Xtreme Power Inc., who are putting in $1.33 billion to build a renewable-energy park on the former site of a Ford assembly plant in Wixom.

– Jockey DeShawn Parker, son of Michigan steward Daryl Parker, was named a finalist Wednesday for the Santa Anita George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award. According to the Blood Horse, the award “honors and recognizes those riders whose careers and personal character earn esteem for the individual and the sport of Thoroughbred racing.” Other riders nominated for the award  include Calvin Borel, Garrett Gomez, Randy Meier and Gallyn Mitchell.

Parker is a regular rider at Mountaineer in West Virginia and recently began taking his tack to Oaklawn Park in Arkansas. This is his first time being nominated for the award. For more information on Parker and his career, the Blood Horse wrote a good piece about him following his 3,000th win, which can be read here.

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Digging up the past

I’m cooking up something special for this weekend’s Breeders’ Cup World Championships, so hang loose for a little while as I finish it up.

Until then, check out this blog I stumbled across focusing on the former Great Lakes Downs property as it transitions from a racetrack to a proposed casino. It has not been updated since March, and the posts are pretty intermittent, but it provides some informative articles for those curious about what has been happening with the land since the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians bought it from Magna Entertainment Corp. last summer.

If anything else, there are some neat pictures of the track from Google Earth and from the apron during the races.

Also, for those who have not already browsed it, Equibase now offers a free horse search on its website. An account with the site is required, but there is no cost to set one up.

Users can search for any Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse or Arabian with at least one start and will receive information on the dates and locations of its starts, as well as the horse’s lifetime record. If available, the results will also include charts of the races and video replays.

I have lost several hours scheduled to be used productively because of this search. It is fun to walk down memory lane and follow the career paths of the horses I grew up watching. I have learned quite a bit about the history of racing in Michigan just from the short time the feature has been available.

These links ought to suffice until I roll out my Breeders’ Cup post(s). Enjoy!

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Tribal casino proposal hits close to home

The Detroit Free Press reports the Upper Peninsula-based Hannahville Indian Community has resubmitted an application to build a $300 million casino in Romulus, including a 200-room hotel and retail space.

The city of Romulus is about five miles from Pinnacle Race Course in New Boston. Pinnacle, along with the state’s four other pari-mutuel racetracks are working toward obtaining their own casinos through a 2010 ballot issue.

This news also comes on the heels of the recent announcement that Michigan may cease live and simulcast horse racing indefinitely on Nov. 5 following cuts to the Office of Racing Commissioner.

The Free Press reports the Hannahville tribe’s application to the U.S. Department of the Interior was rejected last year, but Chairman Ken Meshigaud told the paper he feels “more confident than ever” that the project will get the go-ahead this time around. The group has been eyeing a casino in Romulus since 2004.

The tribe also operates the Chip-In Island Resort and Casino, located west of Escanaba in the state’s Upper Peninsula.

One key factor standing in the way of this development is the small fact that there isn’t any tribal land for miles around Romulus. According to the Free Press, the tribe plans to get around this by “asking the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs to place a portion of a 27-acre site at Vining and Wick into trust — allowing tribal members to own the land and use it for gaming, as a sort of extension of their 5,500-acre reservation near Escanaba.”

In a similar case, the Manistee-based Little River Band of Ottawa Indians purchased the site of former Thoroughbred track Great Lakes Downs in 2008 with the intention of developing a casino. The property is about 75 miles from the tribe’s reservation and far from any other Native American land. The area has been cleared, but its status in regards to building a casino remains in limbo.

A tip of the hat goes out to to Twitter user @ThoroFan for sniffing out this story.

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Filed under Commentary, Great Lakes Downs, Pinnacle Race Course, Politics

The final nail

Take it all in, gang. By the looks of it, we won't be seeing horses at Great Lakes Downs again. Hanway (#1) and Caught in Traffic (#2) walk around the GLD paddock.   

Take it all in, gang. By the looks of it, we won't be seeing horses at Great Lakes Downs again. Hanway (#1) and Caught in Traffic (#2) walk around the GLD paddock.

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.

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