GRANTS PASS, Ore. — While horses lined the gates, horse racing fans lined the ticket window at Grants Pass Downs in what was a sharp increase compared to 2012. More than 21,000 attended Grants Pass Downs this season despite having two fewer races per day. Josephine County Fairgrounds officials hope this is a sign things are picking up and turning around for the fairgrounds.
“Our goal was to have a certain promotional type of thing every single day, and I think that helped a lot. We really invited people out, we made them want to come out,” said Southern Oregon Horse Racing Association president Rod Lowe.
Grants Pass Downs officials said both attendance and handle was up this year compared to last year. The Southern Oregon Horse Racing Association took over the downs from the fairgrounds while leasing the track for a total of $18,000 for the season. Racing officials said they plan on being back next year.
“We want the whole valley to know, all of southern Oregon for sure to know that there is horse racing at Grants Pass Downs and that we are alive and well and that we’re going to be here next year,” said Lowe.
Fairgrounds officials are hoping the momentum from a successful Grants Pass Downs season will carry over to other events, mainly next month’s county fair.
Interim fairgrounds manager, Mary Groves said the community has really sparked strong support over the past few months.
“It really started with the lighting of the Christmas tree back in Christmas time. That pretty much made the community think about the fairgrounds and we’ve just kept building on that momentum as much as we can,” said Groves.
The fairgrounds is self sufficient and Groves said making a profit is not only vital but possible this year.
“We feel that they’re behind us, helping us get this place ready to go and as long as it’s run like a business, this fair can make money. This fairgrounds can do well,” said Groves.