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Friday, October 30, 1998 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Horse Racing -- Yakima Meadows To Close Because Of Financial Trouble

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

The state's horse racing industry, seemingly in a recovery mode after a successful meeting at Emerald Downs, has suffered a setback.

Yakima Meadows is closing.

In its 37th year of racing in central Washington, it was announced yesterday that the track will close after the racing program of Nov. 8.

"It is with great regret that I make this announcement," Greg Stewart, president and general manager of the Central Washington Fair Association, said, "but the fact is we are losing money and cannot continue this meet."

The Central Washington Fair Association is the parent company of Yakima Meadows.

Stewart said racing and full-card simulcasting of races from out of state will cease after programs tomorrow, Sunday and Nov. 7 and 8. "This should make for an orderly closure and give our horsemen, employees, patrons and our service providers an opportunity to make plans," he said.

Directly affected are about 150 horsemen and horsewomen on the grounds and 200 employees at the track or at satellite outlets.

The closing of Yakima Meadows and Spokane's Playfair leaves Emerald Downs as the only Class A racetrack in the state. On Sept. 13, it ended a 94-day meeting, during which purses were raised after an increase in handles.

Yakima Meadows has struggled since it opened earlier this month. "Our average handle is about $170,000, or 30 percent below projections," Stewart said. "We need about $250,000 (a day) to break even."

A shortage of horses contributed to Yakima Meadows' problems. The first four scheduled Fridays of the 40-day meeting were canceled because races weren't filled.

The closure of Playfair in August was believed to have an impact on revenues and the number of horses at Yakima Meadows. Playfair had been a satellite wagering outlet for races at Yakima.

"We have simply been a declining business during the past two years and the time has come for us to accept the fact that Yakima Meadows is no longer viable," Stewart said.

Copyright (c) 1998 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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