08/30/2006 11:00PM

Golden Gate maps out synthetic plans

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ALBANY, Calif. - Golden Gate Fields is planning to install a synthetic surface immediately after it runs the January-June meeting it is requesting for next year.

Construction of a new track from the bottom up would take a minimum of three months, said the track's general manager, Robert Hartman said.

"We would have to do the construction and also mix the surface," Hartman said. "The mixing should not be done when it is wet to get the best possible result. When it's wet when you try to mix, it doesn't work as well.

"Then we need time for horses to train on it so that we can find out how it is holding up for the horses and tweak it if we have to."

If Golden Gate gets the dates it wants, races would be held over the track for the first time in 2008.

There are logistical considerations as well, ranging from getting proper construction permits to moving horses from northern California's largest barn area.

"We have a plan with the fairs to move our horses to the fair circuit in mid-June," Hartman said. "There's a place for horses, and it's a good time frame for alternative stabling."

Two local engineering companies have been interviewed about doing the reconstruction of the track. Once chosen, the company will meet with water management concerns, the Corps of Engineers and the cities of Berkeley and Albany to make sure the necessary permits are in place so that the track could begin construction the day following the end of the meet in 2007.

Officials with the track's owner, Magna Entertainment Corp., have received proposals from manufacturers of Polytrack, Cushion Track, and Tapeta, Hartman said. A fourth firm conducted informal talks with Magna.

A decision on the manufacturer and engineer is expected to be announced within two weeks.

Ted Malloy, a track consultant to Magna, said that although Golden Gate Fields is located directly next to San Francisco Bay, construction of the sub-surface would not reach to the water table.

At the lowest level, four six-inch drainpipes would be laid to circumnavigate the track, using four miles of pipe. In addition, there will be 16 lateral pipes to carry runoff from the track. A special cloth would help guide water into the pipes, Malloy said.

The improved drainage system would actually carry less contaminant than the current drainage system with a dirt track, Malloy said, a factor that should aid the track in obtaining environmental permits.

Above the drainage system would be six inches of stones that are two inches in diameter. On top of that, there would be two inches of coarse asphalt, which would allow water to drain through it. Last would come seven inches of compacted synthetic surface.

The final composition of the synthetic surface will be tailored to the relatively mild weather conditions of the Bay Area, according to Malloy. The construction of the foundation would basically be the same regardless of which surface is used.

Malloy said that Golden Gate Fields would install an irrigation system to provide whatever water the track might need rather than use water trucks.

He also said the track would be constructed so that the backstretch and stretch were flat with no grade. He estimated there would be a 5- to 6-percent grade on the turns.

Malloy said the system was being built to be permanent.

"We're not going to shortcut anything," he said.