10/05/2001 12:00AM

Magna strikes deal to open Portland Meadows

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PORTLAND, Ore. - The on-again, off-again Portland Meadows meeting is back on as a result of an 11th-hour agreement between Magna Entertainment, Inc., which will operate the 2001-2002 stand, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The agreement, finalized at noon Friday, gives Magna until Feb. 15 to complete construction of a new storm water retention system at Portland Meadows. The horsemen, through the Oregon division of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, agreed to remove their horses from the grounds on Feb. 15 if the EPA is not satisfied with progress on the new system at that time.

As a result of the agreement, horses will begin moving into the barn area on Saturday, Oct. 6, and training will begin on Monday, Oct. 8. The 80-day meeting at Portland Meadows has been pushed back a week and will now start Saturday, Oct. 27, Breeders' Cup Day.

At midweek, the chances of a 2001-2002 meeting at Portland Meadows seemed bleak. The EPA issued a new requirement that the track's storm water retention system be functional by Jan. 1, a deadline Magna felt it could not meet owing to permit requirements. A last-ditch round of negotiations produced the agreement.

"Everybody pitched in and we got the job done," said Art McFadden, Magna's representative in Oregon. "I would give special credit to the horsemen, the Oregon Racing Commission, and Bub Loisette at the EPA's regional office for demonstrating the creativity and flexibility to get this thing done."