Our View: What’s next for dog track site?The announcement last week that the old St. Croix Meadows Dog Track is for sale probably brought little reaction from many people, but for the longtime track and casino opponents who are still around – it was music to their ears.
By: Editorial staff, Hudson Star-Observer
The announcement last week that the old St. Croix Meadows Dog Track is for sale probably brought little reaction from many people, but for the longtime track and casino opponents who are still around – it was music to their ears.
The next part of the dog track puzzle will be exciting – who will buy the property and what will be located on the 126-acre site?
An online poll (hudsonstarobserver.com) finds people have mixed reactions as to what they hope lands on the property. Some want industrial development, some retail development, but the winner of the poll at press time is land for a potential future school – probably a high school.
Since the price of the property has not been made public, it is not known if the school district could be a legitimate candidate for the property. The school has said absolutely nothing about being interested in the site, but we believe they have been involved in examining the location.
At a recent Rotary meeting, Super-intendent Mary Bowen Eggebraaten was questioned about the dog track as a potential school site. Again, not admitting to anything, she did mention that the structure (grandstand) on the site would not be suitable for a school. She said “only the façade and stairwells could be salvaged.” That tells us that the district has at least looked at the facility.
As we all know, the district has determined that the 100-plus acres they currently own on County UU is not a suitable location for a large secondary school. We also know that the track site would fit the bill: in the city limits, large piece flat land, all utilities (sewer, water) are in place, on a four-lane road, etc.
But, this is all speculation and the property obviously could be used for many things and it will likely depend on who can pay the price.
After a year of debate, demonstrations and battles within the community, the state issued a license for St. Croix Meadows Greyhound Racing Park in June 1989, and construction began shortly thereafter. St. Croix Meadows opened with great fanfare in June 1991. Considered the fanciest of the five tracks in Wisconsin, it was a showpiece with fancy restaurants, clubhouse, spotless facilities and more. The final price tag was over $40 million.
Financial problems for the track began almost immediately. The problem? Indian casinos. At about the same time St. Croix Meadows opened its doors, Indian casinos in the Twin Cities and northwestern Wisconsin were opening their doors.
Track attendance fell dramatically after just a couple of seasons and continued to spiral downward until the track finally closed in 2001. The track never showed a profit.
Track owner Fred Havenick came up with another plan — he partnered with three Wisconsin Indian tribes (Lac Courte Oreilles, Red Cliff and Sokaogon/Mole Lake) in an effort to get approval for a casino at the dog track. That eight- or nine-year effort finally hit a brick wall in 2001, and the track has been vacant for the past 10 years.
After the track closed, people came up with plenty of ideas for the property, but Havenick had no interest in selling. Havenick was diagnosed with lymphoma in November 2005 and died June 21, 2006, in Miami. The property remained in the hands of Havenick heirs and, apparently they have now decided that the time has come to get rid of the track.
It might take some time before we know the fate of the property – will it become part of the school district? Will it be part of a new industrial complex? A housing development? Time will tell, but it is an exciting opportunity to do something special with an attractive piece of land.
For the longtime track/casino opponents, changing ownership will finally put the exclamation point at the end of a 20-year saga. They may have lost the initial battles in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but they won a big battle in the early 2000s when the casino was put to rest, and now it appears that track/casino opponents have won the war.