Traffic will be a nightmare-let’s face it- but two new sports facilities are scheduled to come to life this month, Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie and the Texas Motor Speedway north of Fort Worth, ushering in days and nights of thunder, When the ponies hit the home stretch at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie on April 17, the event will mark both the beginning of the 73-race-day 1997 Premier Thoroughbred Season and the end of a 60-year moratorium on major-league horse racing in North Texas.
The Post Time Pavilion has been open since May 3, airing simulcast races from across the country. The pavilion features a Las Vegas-style race book, sports bar, casual dining area (crawfish beignets to filet mignon) and more TVs than you can shake a riding crop at. Teller and automated parimutuel windows abound, and a covered patio area accommodates 400.
Eastward lies the grandstand, 280,000 square feet of viewing and seating options, depending on admission price ($2 to $5), that includes a terraced dining area, clubhouse. Jockey Club, bar, private suites and outdoor apron seats. Mutuel windows and monitors are everywhere; roving attendants will take bets for those who prefer to sit. A fan education booth will offer materials ranging from literature on wagering and handicapping to videos of old races and computer terminals with statistics on the horses.
The impressive paddack area is open to alt; two grandstand balconies provide a bird’s-eye view of the paddock. A 15-acre Family Fun Park features pony rides, a playground and petting zoo-from which the track can still be seen.
The track itself is actually two: the one-mile oval dirt track with a 550-yard quarter horse chute, and a seven-eighths mile turf track. Lighting allows for night racing, and the infield tote board and obligatory Jumbotron will keep viewers up-to-date. Post times are at 6:35 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 1:35 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Traffic will be a problem, especially when the Texas Rangers are playing. It might be wise to avoid altogether the obvious route of Interstate 30 (keeping in mind that eastbound 1-30 narrows to two lanes from State Highway 820 to the county line) to Belt Line Road and opt for taking S.H. 183 into Irving and heading south on Belt Line (which will fill quickly, too). Parking costs $2 to $5.
Lone Star Park sits just east of l-30’s Entertainment Corridor (Six Flags Over Texas, The Ballpark at Arlington).
If the success of Post Time Pavilion is any sign, Lone Star Park will take its place in the galaxy of the area’s major-league sports franchises. It should. After all, this town’s crazy about a winner.
Post Time Pavilion; 10:30 a.m.-ll p.m., Wednesday-Monday; Grandstand: 4:35-10 p.m., Wednesday-Friday; 11:35 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday & Sunday; 1000 Lone Star Pkwy., Grand Prairie. Information: 972-263-RACE.
The flag drops April 3 at Fort Worth’s Texas Motor Speedway with qualification for the kickoff events, The Coca-Cola 300 on April 5 and the big one, the Interstate Batteries 500 (sorry, it’s already sold out), a NASCAR Winston Cup race featuring top drivers such as Dale Earnhardt and Terry Labonte on April 6.
North of Alliance Airport in Fort Worth, at the intersection of S.H. 114 and Interstate 35W. the Speedway complex calls itself the second-largest sports facility in the United States. To give an idea of the sheer size of the place, the grandstand stretches nearly two-thirds of a mile and has 120,000 fixed seats.
A dual-banked turn construction scheme allows the flexibility of both stock- and Indy-car racing on the 1.5-mile oval track. A road course snakes through the infield area, and a 23-acre lake at the south end of the complex will be a venue for future watercraft exhibitions. Capping it all off, a major lighting system places the Speedway in league with only three other speedways in the world that offer nighttime racing.
Viewing options range from luxury suites, available for lease, to infield seating on top of the ol’ motor home. General seating prices range from $3 for the kids to $80 on the front stretch.
Preferred seat licenses, which give the owner yearly rights to the same seats (season tickets are extra), are still available but are going quickly. Infield access is vehicular ($350 to $800 for reserved parking, plus tickets} or pedestrian ($30 to $50).
Tickets are still available for the historical June 7 event when the drivers of the Indy Racing League steer their cars under the stars in pursuit of the checkered flag of the Longhorn 500, the first ever nighttime Indy-car race.
The Speedway is the place to satisfy the need for speed, but prepare to feel like the proverbial tortoise on the way to and from a day at the races. Be patient, leave home hours early and take a map. As for food, well, think tailgate party or concession stand, or else you’ll be grazing with the neighborhood cattle.
9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. (times will vary with races); 3601 State Hwy. 114. Fort Worth. Information: 817-215-8500.