Originally created 12/07/00

Garden State Park sold



CHERRY HILL, N.J. -- Garden State Park, a 58-year-old racetrack hurt by declining attendance and competition from Atlantic City casinos, has been sold to a development company.

The Pennsylvania company plans to convert the 225-acre property into a complex of homes, shops, offices and hotels, the company president said Wednesday.

The New Jersey Racing Commission two weeks ago rejected a proposal for six days of thoroughbred meet dates in May for Garden State Park.

The commission said proposing only a few days of racing was not in the best interests of the sport. State law requires tracks to have live racing as a condition of offering simulcasting.

Garden State will continue to run harness races until Dec. 16. The track has approval for harness racing in 2001, from Aug. 31, to Dec. 15. The track simulcasts races daily.

Since 1992, when the state began letting tracks offer full-card simulcasting without requiring them to protect live racing, Garden State Park went from 105 days of live thoroughbred racing to six this year.

"The racetrack in its day was a showpiece," said Dennis Maloomian, president of Realen Properties of Berwyn, Pa. "There is a lot of history. There is a lot of emotion. We understand that."

Maloomian would not disclose the sale price. ITB chairman Francis Murray has said the price would cover the company's $14.7 million debt on the track.

The track's main pavilion will be converted into a community and cultural center to be used by the Cherry Hill Orchestra and civic, school and community groups. The gatehouse at the main entrance will be kept as one of the entrances into the new development, he said.

Maloomian said plans call for the development to be called Garden State Park. He intends to build town houses, condominiums and a senior citizen residential area.

Realen Turnberry Associates, of Aventura, Fla., is the joint partner in the venture. Realen-Turnberry Cherry Hill Associates bought the park Tuesday from International Thoroughbred Breeders.

ITB, created by financier Robert Brennan, lost money every year since 1985, when the company rebuilt the track, which had been destroyed by fire in 1977.