Anthony Downs racetrack equipment to be auctioned off

The remaining pieces of the Anthony Downs racetrack will be auctioned off today, the final event at a track that provided more than a century of horse and dog-racing memories in south-central Kansas.

Everything left at the track after it closed in 2009 — fences, grandstands, barns, horse stalls — will be auctioned starting at 5 p.m. today to make way for development of the land. The track, which opened in 1904, closed after losing simulcasting money when larger and more lucrative racing tracks closed across Kansas.

The state’s small tracks depended financially on simulcasting of races from larger tracks, getting a third of the taxes from wagers for operations and purses. Those larger tracks closed after the state Legislature declined to allow them to install slot machines, which would have increased revenue.

Residents living near Anthony Downs decided to buy it in order to have control over how the site was developed, likely as a community with apartments and houses, Wichita’s KAKE-TV reported.

“Plus now as owners in the property, there’s a lot of hazards out here,” said Jeff Jones, one of the property owners. “The sooner we get those hazards out of here, the safer it is for kids walking to the pool or the baseball diamonds.”

Brandon Gerber, who will conduct the auction, said he has plenty of fond memories of Anthony Downs since moving to the town more than 30 years ago.

“The first thing I remember, we moved in the summer and we came to the Anthony Downs,” Gerber said.

Those who live nearby say they’ll miss the track.

“I mean, I’ve lived here my whole life and I’ve been to the dog and horse races since I was a little kid so it’s going to be sad to see it go,” neighbor Justin Francis said.

Gerber said he felt the same way but he thinks the auction will at least give people a way to take home a piece of the track before it’s completely gone.