Aaaand they’re off! Horse racing is one of the world’s most ancient sports. Two or more equines sprint over a course—which is fastest? Racing has seen innovations before now: the photo-finish camera (1936), electric starting gates (1940), and closed-circuit television (1967). But a Las Vegas executive has a horse proposal of a different color: a racecourse where more than just the horses circle the track.
Daniel Lee is president of a resort company. He owns five properties and wants to open another. His hoped-for new resort, “La Posada del Llano,” includes a luxury hotel, 18-hole golf course, water park, riding trails, and other extras. But Lee’s plans come with a twist. The showpiece of the Clovis, New Mexico, resort will be a racetrack with a “moving grandstand.”
Lee’s company says the moto-grandstand would circle the track, traveling at the same speed as the racehorses—about 40 miles per hour. The proposed grandstand looks a bit like a high-speed bullet train—with one side open.
“In a typical race, spectators in the grandstand only see two brief moments of a race—its start and the closing seconds at the finish line,” Lee says. “Our moving grandstand changes that, allowing spectators to race side-by-side with the horses for every dramatic second of the race.”
Lee thinks it’s time for further innovation in horse racing. His company, Full House Resorts, says building the cutting-edge facility will probably take about two years—including six months to finish the grandstand design.
Where did Lee come up with such an extraordinary idea? Surprisingly, the notion didn’t come from an amusement park. Instead, Lee remembered crewing (aka rowing) for Cornell University. Crew spectators would pack into a train car with built-in bleachers. The tricked-out train chugged along on tracks beside the river, matching the rowers’ speed and giving fans a first-rate view of the action.
Lee’s revolving grandstand gets mixed reviews among race fans. Some think the idea could work—so long as it doesn’t spook the horses. Others fear Lee is getting the cart before the horse. They raise issues of speed, centrifugal force (the force that pushes a spinning body outward), and distracting (or blocking out) non-spinning spectators.
New Mexico’s Racing Commission should decide the fate of Lee’s moving grandstand by the end of the year. Officials may give Lee the go-ahead . . . or tell him to hold his horses.