The first phase of the ongoing renovation and reconstruction of Bass Park is heading into the home stretch.
The new combination paddock and racing office building should be ready by Oct. 3, in plenty of time for Bangor Raceway’s fall racing schedule, which starts Oct. 7.
The new paddock is already impressive, given its more modern amenities, more convenient location closer to the track, and increased capacity with 21,000 square feet and 96 horse stalls — 14 more than the previous paddock. It also features space for racing officials and veterinarians.
“It looks good. “We’re all excited about having a new facility. No question,” said Mike Hitchcock, owner, trainer, and Maine Harness Horsemen’s Association acting director. “It’s going to help everybody in general.
“I like the added security with everything fenced up and fenced in, and I think it will help traffic since they have it set up in terms of just one way in and one way out off and onto the track.”
In addition, Penn National Gaming Inc., has spent $100,000 to repair the racetrack after a spring and summer plagued by poor drainage and soggy surface conditions.
“Even after all the work we’ve done, we still found a problem area on the turn of the last stretch that wasn’t draining quickly after the recent heavy rains we’ve had,” said Corey Smith, Bangor Raceway’s director of operations. “We dug down and found what looked like an old manure dumping pit.”
They also found an old drainage pipe running down to the rail that was helping water pool up in that spot on the track.
“We trucked out 46 yards of dirt and manure and replaced it all with clay and sand,” Smith said.
The effort and expense hasn’t gone unnoticed by the horsemen.
“I haven’t seen it, so I can’t say firsthand, but I’m happy they’re doing it,” said Mike Andrew, president of the Maine Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association. “I know our horsemen are all happy that progress has finally been made.”
“We’ve raced there a couple of times now and the track is 100 percent better than it was,” added Hitchcock, a Caribou native now living in Hampden. “All the way around, it looks really good. They only way it could be better is if they dig it all up and build a brand-new one.”
The construction of a new paddock is part of a three-phase, $5.6 million renovation project that will last three to four years and replace six aging barns, two paddocks and other smaller buildings. The plan includes the construction of two new barns, which can house nearly 200 horses each — one in 2009 and one in 2010.