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Old racetrack in Charles Town could be history

February 23, 2005|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. - If all goes as planned, a piece of Jefferson County racing history is headed for the wrecking ball.

To create room for more development, Charles Town Races & Slots officials told Jefferson County Planning Commission members Tuesday night they are planning to tear down the Shenandoah Downs facility.

Shenandoah Downs, a short distance from Charles Town Races & Slots off Fifth Avenue, was a second horse racing track that operated at the same time as the track at Charles Town.

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Shenandoah Downs opened in 1959 and operated for about 16 years.

The giant grandstand at Shenandoah Downs and its nine horse barns probably will be torn down within a year, said Jim Buchanan, senior vice president of government and public affairs for Penn National Gaming Inc., which owns the track.

Track owners want to tear down the old track and grade the area to allow for future development, Buchanan said.

"We don't know what for, but at least it can be developed," said Buchanan, adding that the track has budgeted more than $1 million for the demolition.

Track officials say they will have to obtain a demolition permit from the county to tear down Shenandoah Downs.

Track officials talked about the demolition of Shenandoah Downs while requesting approval for a number of other construction projects at Charles Town Races & Slots.

The track received approval from the planning commission to build four new horse barns, a 450-space employee parking lot, a three-eighths-of-a-mile horse training track and a new entrance to the track off U.S. 340.

The four horse barns will be near the Sheetz store at the intersection of U.S. 340 and Flowing Springs Road, Buchanan said.

The practice track will be built behind a manure barn along Fifth Avenue and the employee parking lot will be built next to the facility's parking garage, Buchanan said.

The practice track, horse barns and new entrance could be completed by fall, Buchanan said.

The main entrance to the track is along West Washington Street, which is a two-lane road with a center turn lane.

Congestion often is a problem at the entrance when patrons leave the track after live racing, Buchanan has said.

The four-lane entrance would extend off U.S. 340 a short distance west of Sheetz at the intersection of U.S. 340 and Flowing Springs Road, Buchanan said.

From U.S. 340, the new road will cut behind Jefferson Security Bank, Charles Town Athletic Club and the Turf Motel, Buchanan said. The road would then tie into the current entrance road that leads to the oval, Buchanan said.

After the new road is built, the existing entrance will be used, but only right turns in and out of the track will be allowed at the entrance to control traffic congestion on West Washington Street, Buchanan said.

Planning Commission member Bill Lewandowski expressed concerns about traffic in coming years on Fifth Avenue, which runs behind the track.

With the growth that is planned in the area, the Fifth Avenue area is going to become "a mess very shortly," Lewandowski said.

Lewandowski said he wants the state Division of Highways to complete a traffic study on the area.

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