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  • Christia Gibbons

Ghostly track meets its unmaker

Iconic? Haunted? Movie stage? Trotting track?


Off in the near distance of I-10 west of Goodyear, generations of Valley dwellers and tourists traveling through likely glanced southerly and noticed a huge building standing tall and strong with huge windows. Completely abandoned.

Some saying it looked futuristic, the $9.5 million Phoenix Trotting Park opened to great fanfare at the beginning of 1965 catering to rich businessmen who fancied gambling. However, the novelty of harness racing in Phoenix wore off quickly and by the end of the next year, the track closed. Another factor in its demise likely was how far away it was with no freeway at the time. The grand structure was never inhabited again.

Last week it came tumbling down. OK, not tumbling.

“I was surprised at how well it was built,” said, Casey Johansen, owner of BCS Enterprises Inc., hired by property owner Citrus Commerce Center LLC to bring the building down. “One of the challenges was that it was very well built.” Especially the post-tension cables, “surprising for that era.”

A 350-ton Rusch Triple 34-25 excavator was called into action.

Johansen called it a “bittersweet,” but an “exciting” experience because he’s seen its presence since moving to the Valley in 1989. “It’s definitely something I’ve seen for many, many years.”

Still, if demolition is your business, what a project.

While the odd wall still stands, as of Friday, the building is down. Demolition, with 12 workers on site, started Sept. 19. Johansen said his company bought the Rusch in Norway to add to its array of machinery, and the Phoenix Trotting Park was the first job where it was put to use.

The Rusch was built off the Caterpillar 5130B mine shovel, he said. It reaches 120-feet and “has an extremely large shear.” It cuts steel, rebar and concrete.

Of course some prelim demolition work occurred during the making of the movie “Code of Conduct” with Charlie Sheen when the windows, among other things, were blown up as part of the storyline.

One of the biggest issues during the demolition, Johansen said, was dust control. “We made two rain makers; large misting fans powered by small excavators.”

A second, somewhat unexpected, issue centered on ghosts.

“Apparently (the property) is listed on several sites; maybe they were ghost hunters,” Johansen said. As a result, BCS had to post guards around the clock to keep trespassers safe. There were also a fair number of people around during the day watching the massive project.

While wood, drywall, etc. was removed prior to demolition and taken to the landfill, the hundreds of thousands of pounds of concrete from the outer structure have a shorter trip. Handily there is a 30-foot deep borrow pit (created during the building of the freeway) where the 1 million yards of broken material can go.

Johansen said it will take about a month and a half to prepare the concrete – small enough rock that can be trucked – to put in the hole.

The current owners, he said, intend to sell the land for commercial development.

Top left photo credited to, the demolition photos courtsey of BCS Demolition.

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