04/24/2004 12:00AM

Magna to proceed with Gulfstream renovation


Magna Entertainment Corp. announced late Friday that it will tear down the grandstand at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Fla., later this year and embark on a $120 million reconstruction of the racetrack that will include a new turf course.

The project, which has been discussed by Magna since the company purchased Gulfstream for $81.2 million in 1999, is "subject to obtaining all required permits and entitlements," Magna said in a release. Magna will take a $25-million write-down on the value of Gulfstream Park in the second-quarter because of the project, the company said.

The new grandstand will include an "array of restaurants, bars, and entertainment facilities," Magna's release said. The project will also include renovations to the dirt racing surface and stable area.

If Magna is successful in getting its permits for construction, temporary facilities will be constructed for the 2005 live-racing meet at Gulfstream, the company said. Gulfstream is expected to run from early January until late April next year.

Racing dates in south Florida are currently shared by Gulfstream Park and Calder Race Course, which is owned by Churchill Downs Inc. Calder runs from late April until the end of the year. Simulcasting rights in Florida are controlled by the track running a live meet.

Magna officials have indicated they would like to race additional days at Gulfstream Park. Racing regulators in Florida have typically awarded racing dates based on the traditional calendar, which, until 2001, included a live meet at Hialeah from mid-March until late April. Gulfstream took Hialeah's dates after that track closed.

In the release, Jim McAlpine, Magna's chief executive officer, said the company expected to race additional days at the new Gulfstream facility.

"The new Gulfstream Park will have the capacity to run substantially expanded race meets with high quality turf and dirt racing," McAlpine said.

Last year, in order to deal with chronic horse shortages, Magna completed construction of a training center, Palm Meadows, which is located 30 miles north of Gulfstream. The training center cost $90 million, Magna officials said.

Earlier this week, Magna announced that it had entered an agreement with Forest City Enterprises on a separate project at Gulfstream Park. The Forest City project will entail development of 80 acres of Gulfstream's 250-acre property and include commercial and residential properties, the company said.