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Drainage problems cause track to close

September 21, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Less than a month after opening a new $8 million racing surface, the thoroughbred track at Charles Town Races & Slots has been shut down due to a drainage problem, a Penn National Gaming Inc. official said Monday.

The track was closed last Wednesday and Thursday because of wet areas discovered on the oval, said Eric Schippers, vice president of public affairs for Penn National Gaming Inc., which owns the track.

Then the track was closed Friday due to the remnants of Hurricane Ivan passing through the area, Schippers said.

The track has not opened since as track officials try to correct the drainage problem, Schippers said.

Track officials need to correct the wet areas on the track because ignoring it can cause an uneven racing surface, Schippers said.

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"Safety is certainly a priority for us," Schippers said.

Track workers have removed the section of track where the wet areas were observed and are redoing the surface, Schippers said.

Officials hope the track can be reopened by the weekend, Schippers said, adding that he will be able to be more specific later in the week.

Track officials plan to make up all races that have to be canceled because of the work, Schippers said.

The new $8 million oval opened at the track on Aug. 25.

Horsemen had wanted to lengthen the old six-furlong track to make it more competitive. There also was concern about a concrete base under the old track, which made it difficult for water to drain after it rained, horsemen said.

To allow for races up to 71/2 furlongs, track owners came up with a plan to lengthen "chutes," which are areas where starting gates are set up along the track.

The work also included installing new lighting at the track, a new racing surface and a new drainage system and banking the turns. Track owners said they also plan to build a small training track on property the track owns along Fifth Avenue and to construct four new barns.

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