This is going to be an unpopular opinion, but it's time to demolish a once-grand landmark in the heart of South Jersey.

This massive structure has proudly stood tall for 77 years but it's really starting to look bad and I really don't know what could be done to save it at this point.

With no plans for redevelopment, its slow decay is just making its demise worse and worse as the days go by.

I'm talking about the Atlantic City Race Course in Mays Landing.

Atlantic City Race Course - Photo: Google Maps
Atlantic City Race Course - Photo: Google Maps

Amazing history

The track opened back in the summer of 1946. Four men were behind its construction -- John B. Kelly, Sr., Fred Scholler, Glendon Robertson, and James "Sonny" Fraser. Some celebrities were shareholders in the project, too. Perhaps you've heard of Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope.

For a handful of decades, horse racing did pretty well in Mays Landing. Of course, that was in an era before there was casino gaming in Atlantic City. More on that in a moment.

Not just horses

The track was used for a number of special events and features over the years.

Its biggest crowd was in the summer of '69 for the Atlantic City Pop Festival when over 100,000 people flocked to the track, much to the surprise of local government officials and police departments.

For only $15, you got into the stands for three days of music featuring Booker T. & the M.G.'s, The Byrds, Chicago (then the Chicago Transit Authority), Joe Cocker, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, B.B. King, Little Richard, Joni Mitchell, Procol Harum, Santana, and Three Dog Night, just to name a few.

A similar music event was held just a few weeks later in upstate New York: Woodstock.

Casino gaming in the 70s

All was pretty well until the late 70s came along. That's when casino gaming was established just 14 miles down the Atlantic City Expressway and suddenly the race track had a ton of competition.

The glitz and glamour of slot machines and A-list celebrities performing every night made turning a profit at the track all that much harder.

Rumbles of financial problems surfaced in the late 90s when news started to spread that live racing would cease by the end of 1998, however, the track limped along for several more years.

From 1998 through about 2014 or '15, the track remained open offering live races only a handful of times per year.

Sadly, the Atlantic City Race Course closed in January 2015.

Atlantic City Race Course in 2013 - Photo: Chris Coleman
Atlantic City Race Course in 2013 - Photo: Chris Coleman


Since the track closed, not much has happened. Let's take a look...

What the Atlantic City Race Course in Mays Landing looks like today

A look at the 77-year-old track, which has been closed for almost a decade.

NOTE: all pictures were legally taken from an adjacent property.

Gallery Credit: Chris Coleman

  • If you are thinking about exploring the track, know this. The property IS NOT ABANDONED. People work there every day. The large parking lot is used for a number of purposes throughout the year. If you break in, you will be arrested.

So what do you do with it?

First, to assume horse racing is dead in New Jersey is incorrect. In fact, if you go about an hour up the Garden State Parkway, the complete opposite is true at Monmouth Park.

Horse racing at Monmouth Park in NJ - Photo: Chris Coleman
Horse racing at Monmouth Park in NJ - Photo: Chris Coleman

Monmouth Park is another decades-old horse track in New Jersey, but this one does very well.

Thousands of people visit the track on any given weekend afternoon in the summer and they do a fantastic job with events that support racing, like food truck and beer festivals, classic car shows, and more.

Of course, Monmouth Park is also owned by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, so it has the backing of the state government.

Horse racing at Monmouth Park in NJ - Photo: Chris Coleman
Horse racing at Monmouth Park in NJ - Photo: Chris Coleman

Would the State of New Jersey ever be interested in taking over the Atlantic City track and reopening it? That seems like a huge undertaking. Remember, the track sits on 250 acres and it's not just the grandstands that need work -- the stables and everything else around it all need to be completely refurbished.

Would the taxpayers of the state support that? One word: no.

And while the region could certainly use a shopping destination it really doesn't need more lifeless strip malls and shopping centers. The floundering Hamilton Mall is right in front of the track. That's another plot of land that has seen better days.

So what do you do with it? I really don't know.

Years ago, an idea was floated to turn the land into a NASCAR-type track. If for no other reason, the people who now live right against that property line would never go for that.

Another idea called for buildings to house aviation companies with a high-rise hotel and convention space, but that never happened either.

Could a sports betting company swoop in and turn the building around? Maybe that's an idea.

As someone who has a huge appreciation for all things old and historic -- and South Jersey can do a better job preserving its history -- and as someone who is a fan of horse racing, it pains me to suggest that the track be bulldozed so something else can be done with this huge piece of prime real estate in the middle of South Jersey.

If you have any ideas, please email me.

A walk around the closed Atlantic Club Casino in Atlantic City

The Atlantic Club closed in January 2014 and not much has happened there since.

Gallery Credit: Chris Coleman

A Look Inside and Around a NJ Sears Store That Closed in 2018

Sears at Hamilton Mall in Mays Landing closed in November 2018. Here's what it looks like today.

Gallery Credit: Chris Coleman

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