03/04/2006 12:00AM

Penn National facility closing


Penn National Race Course will shut down the 33-year-old building that houses its grandstand and clubhouse, and temporarily halt live racing next month as the first step toward preparing for the eventual arrival of slot machines.

There will be no live racing at the Grantville, Pa., track from April 9 through April 25. Live racing is scheduled to resume on Wednesday, April 26.

Once the main building is closed following full-card simulcasting on April 15, Penn National will move its Thoroughbred racing operations to a new Paddock Club, located just north of the current facility, close to the chute for 1 1/4-mile races.

The 24,000-square foot Paddock Club, with a capacity of about 900 patrons, will essentially serve as a simulcast betting facility with free admission. Fans will be able to watch Penn National's races on 250 television screens, but cannot go outside to watch the live races. The Paddock Club will open for simulcasting on April 19.

Penn National Gaming Inc. filed an application last December with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board for approval of a license to construct and operate an integrated gaming and racing facility on the site of the existing grandstand and clubhouse. The company intends to begin construction of a new, $240 million, 365,000-square foot property immediately upon being licensed, which could occur in August. Construction is expected to take 12 to 14 months, which puts the timeframe for slots to begin operating sometime in the fall of 2007.