What you may see where the massive Phoenix Trotting Park once stood along I-10 in Goodyear

Arizona Republic reporter Maritza Dominguez wrote about the light industrial buildings that will make up the Goodyear Innovation Centre, ending over four decades of an abandoned race park.

The attorney for the project, Wendy Riddell stated, “Light industrial development such as logistics and internet fulfillment centers would be the way to go for the developer to recoup the cost of infrastructure.”

Read the original article below on the history of Phoenix Trotting Park below or on AZ Central here. 

By Maritza Dominguez:

Goodyear residents and leaders hoped for an entertainment destination where the iconic Phoenix Trotting Park once stood, but are more likely to see light industrial at the site off Interstate 10 in the West Valley.

The industrial buildings are expected to begin going up in late summer or early fall.

Plans lay out the possibility of retail and office buildings eventually, although the area slated for commerce and light industrial takes up more than half of the nearly 224-acre site. 

The movement comes five years after the Trotting Park was razed. While the massive horse racing park loomed on the horizon as a landmark for travelers to and from the Valley for more than a half century, it sat vacant for most of that time and was finally leveled.

How we got here

A New York man had opened the horse-racing park in 1965, but soon found that Arizona isn’t the East Coast. The interstate didn’t run through Goodyear at that time and the site wasn’t easy to get to. The two-lane road to the track flooded from time to time, and the endeavor shuttered after two seasons.

Some 30 years later, the Roles family purchased the property and held onto it for another 30 or so years. The family put it on the market in 2015 but opted to raze the massive horse-racing park in 2017 because of safety concerns.

From there, New York-based developer Keystone Equities purchased nearly 140 acres of the land and got the city to rezone the nearly 224 acres in 2020 to make way for development.

Keystone’s vision for the land wasn’t an easy sell. The property is at the juncture of two major freeways — I-10 and Loop 303 — and Goodyear staff envisioned a destination, whether entertainment such as a water park or high-wage employment.

Wendy Riddell, the attorney representing Keystone, had pushed back. She said a couple of key things hampered development of an entertainment destination: no roads leading directly to the site despite its proximity to two major freeways and a lack of infrastructure, from water and sewer to road improvements.

Light industrial development such as logistics and internet fulfillment centers would be the way to go for the developer to recoup the cost of infrastructure, Riddell said.

The city’s planning commission twice rejected the proposal in 2020, but the City Council eventually approved the rezoning with 37 stipulations such as buffers between the project and neighborhoods and limits to building heights.

City Councilmember Laura Kaino said she drove to the former Trotting Park site before that 2020 council meeting and came to the same conclusion as Riddell and the developers.

“I know that there was a hope and a dream to create a destination place, maybe like a water park,” Kaino said. “But we were limited by the fact that there was no infrastructure and the access was extremely difficult.”

At the council meeting, Kaino said it was time for the land to become productive.

Buildings could go up this summer

When the council rezoned the land, it was branded as the Innovation Centre, although the mix of uses is similar to what one sees approved throughout the Valley — light industrial, retail and office space.

 “Innovation is sort of a broad generic term and it can be interpreted certainly in different ways,” Kaino recently told The Arizona Republic.

She said tech development isn’t outside the scope of possibility.

“I think that lands really wants to be something. And so, you know, I’m hopeful that it will bring forth something that is forward thinking and innovative,” she said.

Keystone sold the nearly 140 acres to Crow Holdings and city planners are reviewing the Dallas-based development company’s site plans.

The plans show five to six buildings for light industrial use. The project is expected to have just more than two million square feet of warehouse space, a Crow Holdings spokesperson said.

A speculative photo for the light industrial buildings to be built at the Innovation Centre.

Vertical construction of the first phase is expected to begin in late summer or early fall, with phase two following in 2023, the spokesperson said.

The buildings could be built speculatively, meaning without specific users in hand, although Crow Holdings also is marketing for build-to-suit tenants, the company spokesperson said.​​​​

The growing city of Goodyear has landed several new companies from solar company Meyer Burger to pet products retailer Chewy by having buildings up and ready to go, which saves time. 

“A lot of the companies that come in, they want a spec building. They don’t want to build something from the ground up,” Kaino said.

This pit on the site

The remaining swaths of land at the old Trotter Park are still owned by the Roles family.

The plan presented in 2020 envisioned up to 26 acres for commercial development and 59 acres for office and employment. The specifics will need to be hammered out when the land is sold.

But there is at least one key challenge: a 55-acre pit that needs to be filled.

The massive hole is called a borrow pit, where dirt was removed in the late 1970s and 1980s to build I-10.

Crow Holdings, fulfilling one of the 37 stipulations council put on the rezoning, recently obtained a special permit from the city to open an inert materials landfill operation there. City officials said timing is still unknown as it must go through an environmental and engineering processes

Filling the pit could take years.

“We did not make any specific commitments as to when it would be filled, how it would be filled.” Riddell said. It will be a “pretty significant effort” to fill the borrow pit, the attorney said.

The 55 acres that includes the pit is on the market with an asking price of $3.5 million, according to Colliers website.

Chaz Smith, senior vice president of Colliers International, which is representing the Roles family, said the other 26 acres owned by the family is in escrow.

History of Trotting Park

Sally Kiko, who worked as a nurse at Phoenix Trotting Park and remembers its grand opening on Jan. 11, 1965, always hoped the grandstand would find another use.

She wasn’t excited to hear more warehouses could occupy the space and worries about the amount of spec buildings in the city.

Trevor Freeman, an amateur historian from Peoria who has documented the Trotting Park’s history, said the lack of access to the park combined with never attracting enough horse-racing fans spelled its doom.

Still, he also had hoped to see the grandstand preserved in some way.

“The Trotting Park sat abandoned for four decades or more and it’s amazing how many people have developed an emotional attachment to it,” he said. For people driving on the freeway, he said it could mean “you’re home or you’re going on a new adventure.”

As for the current plans, Freeman said it was no surprise to hear that industrial would go up.

Reporter Maritza Dominguez covers the southwest Valley can be reached at maritza.dominguez@arizonarepublic.com or 480-271-0646. Follow her on Twitter @maritzacdom.