Old grandstand, 2011
|Location||East Rutherford, New Jersey
|Owned by||State of New Jersey & Operated by New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority|
|Date opened||September 1, 1976 |
|Notable races||Hambletonian Stakes|
The Meadowlands Racetrack is a horse racing track at the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford, New Jersey, United States. The track hosts both thoroughbred racing and harness racing. It is known popularly in the region as "The Big M".
|This section is outdated. (August 2014)|
Opened in the mid 1970s, Meadowlands Racetrack held its first-ever harness race on September 1, 1976, while thoroughbred racing commenced on September 6, 1977. With the exception of the opening season of 1976, autumn has been dedicated to the thoroughbreds, while the rest of the year features standardbreds, or harness horses.
The advertising campaign that accompanied the start of thoroughbred racing at the Meadowlands in 1977 was noted for its use of the slogan "Racing with the Moon", originally popularized in 1941 by bandleader Vaughn Monroe (alluding to the fact that post-time is in the evening - a circumstance that still pertains, although afternoon programs during long holiday weekends are occasionally put on). More recent advertising campaigns have included a direct and catchy approach to attending live racing: "It's All About Being Here - The Meadowlands!"
With its sweeping curves and wide stretches, the "Big M" has been known for exceptional times for harness racing. Opening night at the track featured the fastest harness mile run in New Jersey to that time, 1:553⁄5 by Rambling Willie. The world record for a mile by a standardbred, 1:464⁄5 by Holborn Hanover, in rein to George Brennan, was established at the track on August 5, 2006 in a division of the U.S. Pacing Championship.
Leading drivers in recent seasons have included Ron Pierce, Brian Sears, George Brennan, and Tim Tetrick.
Sam McKee and Ken Warkentin are the current race callers and announcers for the Meadowlands. McKee is the announcer on Fridays and Warkentin is the announcer on Saturdays. Veteran sportscaster Dave Johnson, the track's lead public-address announcer from its opening until the early 2000s, still does promotional events for the track as its "senior track announcer."
Bruton Smith, owner of Lowe's Motor Speedway and other motorsports racetracks, has long had his sights on Meadowlands Racetrack for possible conversion into a short track venue for NASCAR events in the New York City area. His most recent of several attempts to purchase the track failed in the late 1990s. A report issued in January 2010 by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie discussed the idea of closing the Meadowlands Racetrack and selling it for commercial development or converting it into a NASCAR facility. Governor Christie has considered selling or leasing the racetrack to a private operator or closing it altogether.
The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority currently intends to privatize the racetrack, however a leasing arrangement to Jeffrey Gural of Newmark Knight Frank has been held up in court. The privatization would include $100 million of improvements consisting of a new 2,250-seat grandstand built on the site of the current backstretch. The existing grandstand would then be kept until at least 2014 so it could be used as an event space for Super Bowl XLVIII.
The old Meadowlands grandstand closed for racing on November 2, 2013. The new grandstand, which cost $88 million to build and can seat 2,200, opened for racing on November 23, 2013 with an estimated crowd of 15,000 in attendance.
Like many racecourses in the United States, the main (dirt) track at the Meadowlands has a 1-mile (1,609 m) circumference; inside of this is a turf course (used by the thoroughbreds only) which is 7 furlongs (1,408 m). With a span of exactly 3⁄16 mile (302 m) from the top of the stretch to the finish line and a distance of exactly 1⁄16 mile (101 m) from the finish line to the beginning of the first (clubhouse) turn, the dimensions of the track are considered "typical" or "standard" for an American racetrack. The main track is 90 feet (27 m) wide, while the width of the turf course is 80 feet (24 m). The track is equipped to race at night and most of its races are at night.
The old grandstand, horse barns and site, was designed by the Philadelphia architectural firm of EwingCole (now known as Ewing Cole Cherry Brott), who also designed a number of other track facilities around the world as well as Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia (with Populous).
In the middle of the track is a lake, intentioned to resemble the state of New Jersey.
Up until the 1990s, The Meadowlands held these thoroughbred stakes races, now moved to Monmouth Park:
- Grade II - Meadowlands Cup
- Grade III - Cliff Hanger Stakes
- Grade III - Pegasus Stakes
- Grade III - Violet Handicap
Currently, The Meadowlands only hosts a turf thoroughbred meet after the Monmouth Park meet ends called "Monmouth at the Meadowlands."
From November until the Hambletonian in August, The Meadowlands hosts a variety of stakes races for harness runners:
- Cady, Steve (August 29, 1976). "Jersey Complex Opens Trot Track Wednesday". The New York Times. Retrieved August 7, 2009.
- Stirling, Stephen (April 23, 2011). "N.Y. developer sees promise in Meadowlands Racetrack to revive N.J. harness racing industry". The Star-Ledger (Newark). Retrieved October 15, 2011.
- Cady, Steve (September 4, 1977). "Meadowlands Starts Flat Racing Tuesday Night". The New York Times. Retrieved August 7, 2009.
- "Racing With the Moon".
- Crist, Steven (September 8, 1981). "Summing Wins Pegasusu by 21⁄2 Lengths at the Meadowlands". The New York Times. Retrieved June 12, 2010.
- Tuite, James (October 6, 1979). "Meadowlands' Offer of $800,000 Brings Hambletonian to Jersey". The New York Times. p. 1. Retrieved November 29, 2011.
- Finley, Bill (January 30, 2010). "As New Jersey Tightens Its Belt, the Racing Industry Holds Its Breath". The New York Times. Retrieved January 31, 2010.
- Pérez-Peña, Richard (July 21, 2010). "Christie Makes Bold and Risky Moves on 2 Fronts". The New York Times. Retrieved July 23, 2010.
- Bossert, Jerry (July 22, 2010). "NJSEA remains hopeful for Meadowlands track despite report of panel organized by Gov. Chris Christie". Daily News (New York). Retrieved July 23, 2010.
- Spoto, MaryAnn (October 17, 2011). "N.J. still can't lease Meadowlands Racetrack to N.Y. developer, judge rules". The Star-Ledger (Newark). Retrieved November 2, 2011.
- Nicholaides, Kelly (October 20, 2011). "Big M new grandstand plans unveiled". The Record (Bergen County). Retrieved November 2, 2011.
- Official NFL Super Bowl Tailgate Party
- Brennan, John (November 23, 2013). "$88M grandstand opens at Meadowlands Racetrack". The Record (Bergen County). Retrieved November 27, 2013.
- The Meadowlands Racetrack
- New Jersey Horse Enthusiast Web
- The Meadowlands Racetrack on Facebook
- The Meadowlands Racetrack on Twitter