The track, which opened with thoroughbred racing in 1950, has struggled through years of financial hardship and will hold its last harness racing card on Nov. 28.
Scarborough Downs will hold its last live harness racing event on Nov. 28, ending 70 years of horse racing at a struggling racetrack that had its heyday in the 1970s and ’80s.
Mike Sweeney, the track’s publicist and race announcer, confirmed on Thursday the end of live racing at the track. Scarborough Downs, which has been suffering financial losses for nearly 15 years, had faced an uncertain future since the facility was sold in 2018 to a group of developers who have built around the track for the last two years.
“The overriding sense within the industry is that harness racing needs something different, something that Scarborough Downs can’t offer,” Sweeney said.
Sweeney said Scarborough Downs will continue to offer simulcast betting through the rest of the year and will apply for a 2021 off-track betting license before the Maine Harness Racing Commission on Friday. The simulcast operation will take place in the Clubhouse Building, which will be leased from the developers, Crossroads Holdings LLC. In 2018, simulcast wagering accounted for 91 percent of all money wagered at the track.
“We’ll be closing the season in a week,” Sweeney said. “Actually, we’ll be closing out the 70-year history of Scarborough Downs. I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish this year (in light of the COVID-19 safety protocols). Everyone wishes it could have been an easier year. But we did what we needed to do and will march out with our heads up high.”
Denise Terry, the vice president of finance at Scarborough Downs, declined to be interviewed for this story, Sweeney said.
Scarborough Downs opened in 1950 with thoroughbred racing. Harness racing was introduced in the 1970s, and the track reached its heights in the 1970s and ’80s, when the 6,500-seat grandstand was packed on a nightly basis. On June 29, 1980, a crowd of 9,133 showed up to see actor Lou Ferrigno, who was on hand to sign autographs.
But attendance dwindled and the track stopped charging admission in the 1990s. After Scarborough Downs stopped night racing in 2007 because the light posts had to be removed after the hub rail was removed for safety reasons, the crowds thinned even more. The grandstand fell into disrepair and was eventually closed to fans and the entire facility had a rundown look…(CONTINUED)