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Turf Paradise’s 50th Anniversary Celebration

January 10, 2006     E-mail this page to a friend!

Arizona’s third largest sports attraction, Turf Paradise Race Course, celebrated its 50th anniversary Saturday, January 7. The date corresponds with the track’s inaugural opening day 50 years ago.

Ranked the third largest sports attraction in attendance by the Arizona Business Journal’s Book of Lists, with over 813,000 fans attending the races in 2004, Turf Paradise is right behind the Number One ranked Arizona Diamondbacks and the combined attendance of all teams of Cactus League baseball and ahead of the Phoenix Suns and Arizona Cardinals.

Built in 1956 by the late Walter Cluer, Turf Paradise has been the showcase for Arizona horse racing for a half-century. Once accessible by only dirt roads after crossing Cactus Road and for many early years the only structure in a barren desert on an otherwise commercially empty Bell Road, Turf Paradise is now a global commodity.

Turf Paradise has seen only four other owners since Cluer and is currently owned by Jerry Simms, who purchased the track in 2000.

With the legalization of Off Track Betting (OTB) in 1991, Turf Paradise quickly outgrew its physical location at 19th Avenue and Bell Road to spread from the first OTB opened in Cave Creek in ‘91 to the now more than 60 OTBs statewide.

Demand from OTB operations outside of Arizona for Turf’s racing product, which featured sunshine and fast tracks, has now grown to over 1,200 out of state locales and in eight foreign countries. Basically, when horseplayers are plunking down their $2.00 bets on a Turf Paradise race in Phoenix, their counterparts are simultaneously doing so in New York City, Las Vegas, California as well as Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.