Lost Vegas Racetrack: Exploring the Abandoned Las Vegas Park

Las Vegas Park, the one-mile horse track that opened 70 years ago, remains a forgotten piece of the city’s history. Despite its grand ambitions and status as America’s first racino, the track only operated for 13 days. Back in 1953, Las Vegas was flourishing as an entertainment and gambling hub, and horse racing seemed like the perfect addition to the city’s offerings. The track, with its pink clubhouse and grandstand modeled after Argentina’s Hipodromo Rosado, was a sight to behold. However, a tainted backstory plagued its opening, with allegations of corruption and embezzlement surrounding its original owner, Joseph M. Smoot. Smoot’s indictment and subsequent demise left the track in bankruptcy.

In 1953, the track was bought out of bankruptcy by the Las Vegas Jockey Club and revamped for its inaugural meet. The partners behind the new venture hoped to attract big-name horses and their wealthy Southern California owners with a $1.9 million prize, the richest ever offered by a first-year track. They even introduced the first-ever $500 betting window. Despite some horses showing up for the meet, the track failed to attract enough high rollers and fell short of the daily revenue required to cover expenses. The local population was too small to fill the void left by absent tourists, and numerous technical issues further hampered the track’s success. After just 13 programs, Las Vegas Park closed its doors in October 1953.

The track made one more unsuccessful attempt at horseracing in 1954, but the attendance figures were even worse than before. It wasn’t until 1955 that the racetrack found a new owner in oil magnate Joe W. Brown, but his intention was never to revive horseracing. Brown purchased the property as an investment, holding onto it until the city of Las Vegas could acquire the necessary funding for a new project. Eventually, the land became the site of the Las Vegas Convention Center and the Las Vegas Country Club.

While awaiting demolition, Las Vegas Park Speedway, as it came to be known, briefly hosted auto racing events. However, in 1966, the track was finally demolished to make way for various developments, including the International Hotel and the expansion of the Convention Center. Today, Las Vegas Park remains a lost piece of the city’s history, reminding us of the ups and downs of the gambling and entertainment industry in the early years.

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