12/07/2007 1:00AM

Proposed Michigan track aims for July

EmailHURON TOWNSHIP, Mich. - Officials of Pinnacle Race Course, the proposed new Thoroughbred track that would bring racing back to the metropolitan Detroit area next summer, said Friday they have set a timetable and are on pace to begin racing in July.

At a press conference here, about 20 miles south of Detroit, Jerry Campbell, the longtime horseman and banker who is the driving force behind the proposed new track, said that a racing agreement had been reached with the Michigan Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, and that both a track engineer to build the racing strip and a construction management firm to build the structures had been hired.

Brushing aside concerns about tight deadlines and possible legal challenges, Campbell was optimistic that the daunting task could be accomplished.

"We're going to have a super track here," he said. "We expect to be racing on July 18."

The track will be either a one-mile or a 1 1/8-mile oval. A turf course will eventually be built inside the dirt track. Campbell said it will take 45 days to build the track and 90 days to build the barns. A temporary facility will serve as a grandstand, with a permanent grandstand slated for the 2009 season.

Campbell was joined at the press conference by Wayne County executive Robert Ficano and officials of Huron Township, where the track is slated to be built.

Ficano said the project will generate about 1,400 jobs.

"The No. 1 thing this does for Wayne County and Southeast Michigan is jobs, jobs, jobs," he said. "Horse racing is the sport of kings, but it feeds a lot of people who live below the level of a king."

While an air of congratulation and collegiality was palpable between track officials and elected officials, not everyone in attendance was smiling.

Mary Collins, a longtime resident of Huron Township, said that residents were promised a 36-hole golf course, five-star restaurants, and a shopping mall on the public property that was sold to create Pinnacle.

"It may have been embraced by the officials, but the residents of this area were never asked," she said. "Whenever I asked about it, I was told that it was a done deal."

The Detroit area has been without Thoroughbred racing since Ladbroke Corp. closed the Detroit Race Course in suburban Livonia in 1998.