10/17/2001 11:00PM

Magna unveils track plans

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Magna Entertainment unveiled plans for a small horse racing track in Northern California at a meeting Wednesday night in Dixon, a small town of 15,000 people outside of Sacramento where the track would be located.

The $150 million racetrack, which would not be ready for live racing until 2003 at the earliest, would include a 1 1/8-mile main track and one-mile turf course. The three-story grandstand would include 5,000 seats.

Magna still needs approval from local officials to build the track on 260 acres of land it has already purchased, and Wednesday's meeting was used to gauge local opinion and talk up the project's economic impact. Magna's chairman, Frank Stronach, has said he will not build in the community if Dixon residents oppose the track.

"We're guardedly optimistic," Ron Volkman, a Magna executive in charge of the Dixon project, said on Thursday. "We feel after talking to a good deal of people during the meeting that they are behind us, but we still have a lot of work to do."

Magna already owns two Northern California racetracks, Bay Meadows Race Course and Golden Gate Fields, but Bay Meadows is scheduled to be demolished at the end of 2002. The new Dixon racetrack would take on Bay Meadows's racing dates.

The track would need rezoning approval from Dixon's Planning Commission and City Council. That process could take 12 to 18 months, officials said.