03/19/2008 12:00AM

Detroit track gets license


Thoroughbred racing's return to metropolitan Detroit got one step closer to reality on Wednesday when Post It Stables was granted a license to build and operate a track near Detroit Metropolitan Airport. A 63-day meeting at the track, to be called Pinnacle Race Course, is expected to start on July 18.

Approval of the track license by Michigan's racing commissioner, Christine White, removed the last major obstacle to the $142 million project on approximately 320 acres just south of the airport, said Jerry Campbell, chairman and CEO of Post It Stables. Wayne County is implementing $50 million in infrastructure and road-widening projects to support the track.

"The contractor moved the heavy equipment on the site this week," he said. "We want to be training on the track by the middle of June."

Detroit has been without Thoroughbred racing since Ladbroke DRC closed in 1998. Since then, racing in Michigan had been centered at Great Lakes Downs, near Muskegon. That track closed last fall after years of financial difficulty.

Campbell said he foresees no problems other than possible bad weather that could threaten the tight construction schedule. Temporary structures for fans will be replaced by a permanent grandstand in 2009.

Still, Campbell said he has trepidations every day about bringing back racing to an area that marginally supported the sport only marginally in the 1990s.

"But that's what makes life exciting," Campbell said. "This is like betting the superfecta, and as soon as you get done you say, 'Why did I do that?' But we're going to move heaven and earth to get this done."

For the next several weeks, it will be mostly earth.