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Wichita Greyhound Park

Wichita Greyhound Park

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Built: 1989 | Abandoned: 2007
Status: Abandoned
Photojournalist: Emily Cowan

Wichita Greyhound ParkWichita Greyhound Park opened on September 7th, 1989 as a 72-acre, $18 million luxurious dog racing facility. Greyhound Park allowed for Kansas’ first pari-mutuel betting in greyhound racing, which meant those backing the first three places divide the losers’ stakes. Ed Braunger of South Dakota’s Black Hills Track was hired as the general manager stating there was no doubt in his mind that Kansans were ready to wager. The three-story, glass-enclosed, temperature-controlled grandstand with 250 monitors throughout makes this track different than your average stadium. Three stories of entertainment including a sports lounge, hall of fame room, fine dining, clubhouse, and seating for 3,500 on the main floor with a total capacity of 7,000.

Twenty kennels housed the “athletes” at Greyhound Park which could hold up to 1,200 dogs at any given time. Each kennel was equipped with heating and air-conditioning, a kitchen, bathroom, and showers for both trainer and dog. Local betting clinics and classes were set up in the area to try and educate those unaware of how to race bet. Also to of course try to entice them to take up the sometimes addicting hobby, but none the less Braunger insisted the venue was fun for everyone even those not placing bets. Wayne Strong, President of the new park said betters usually showed up with $20 but some with as much as $2,000. Admission costs were cheap with all prices for admission to each floor being below five dollars, the less guests spent on admission the more money they spent on betting. The first race, which around 5,000 attended, was won by Abilene George. Abilene was one of six Kansas-bred greyhounds in the eight-dog race.

By 1995 interest in greyhound racing in Wichita started to fade and focuses shifted to gambling in casinos and on scratch-offs. The attendance decline at the park seemed to show no signs of stopping or reversing. During the year of 1994 Wichita Greyhound Park made $1.2 million in profits, just a year later only $250,000 and the year after that they expected to not even break even. After losing $760,000 the owners had to come to a decision when approached with a $10.5 million offer. After weeks of negotiation, they signed a deal and new owner Phill Ruffin entered the failing industry ready to get to work. His plans were to decrease the percentage of money the track kept from each race from 23 to 18 percent. Offer free parking, admission and seating, as well as a million-dollar payout race if the person picks all the winners. Some other changes he wanted to make included installing machines so people could place bets from their tables, an updated facility, track, menu, food, and featured races.

wichita greyhound parkThis only did so much for attendance though, casinos were still a huge competitor. In an attempt to combat the competition Wichita Greyhound Park and many others just like it tried to get slot machines. But after almost three years of negotiations with Kansas gambling legislation, when it came down to Sedgwick County voters voted no on a bill that would allow for the slots at the park. This was a devastating blow to Phil Ruffin who owned the park and had been a huge advocate in attempts to get the legislation passed. Shortly after the ruling, he announced that he would be closing the park within ninety days to cope with losses of about $200,000 a month. The vote lost by only 244 votes with owner Ruffin receiving hundreds of letters balming the wording of the ballot question for misleading them, thinking there would be slots all over town and not just on the track.

Business after the vote boomed with races experiencing higher attendance and the last race on October 6, 2007, being sold out but Ruffin still intended to close the track knowing this boom wouldn’t last long. Per the contract with Sedgwick County who owns the land that Wichita Greyhound Park sits on if the park were to close and back out of its lease the county would take over the land again and its buildings. Developer Phil Ruffin owned the Wichita Greyhound Park and paid Sedgwick County about $87,000 a year in a lease that expires in 2039. Pushes for a revote sprung up multiple times over the next ten years but failed to come to fruition due to some gaming laws. In 2017 Sedgwick County pushed to sell the plots of land the former entertainment venue sat on. During a public auction, Phil Ruffin Sr. and Jr. paid $1.6 million to officially own the land and protect what they have already established there. It still sits abandoned with continued efforts and pushes to change the legislation and allow for a revote on the slots machine ballot question.




Bibliography

“11 Jul 1997, 1 – The Wichita Eagle at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/698788914/?terms=wichita%20greyhound%20park&match=1.

“15 Jul 1995, 1 – The Wichita Eagle at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/697751227/?terms=wichita%20greyhound%20park&match=1.

“18 Jul 2018, A2 – The Wichita Eagle at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/666773331/?terms=%22wichita%20greyhound%20park%22&match=1.

“18 Mar 1993, 56 – The Wichita Eagle at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/697790922/?terms=wichita%20greyhound%20park&match=1.

“3 Sep 1989, 155 – The Wichita Eagle at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/702317847/?terms=wichita%20greyhound%20park&match=1.

“3 Sep 1989, 84 – The Wichita Eagle at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/702316376/?terms=wichita%20greyhound%20park&match=1.

“31 Jan 1999, 22 – The Wichita Eagle at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/702664448/?terms=wichita%20greyhound%20park&match=1.

“4 Jul 1989, 9 – The Wichita Eagle at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/702295114/?terms=wichita%20greyhound%20park&match=1.

“6 Oct 2007, 1 – The Wichita Eagle at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/704661452/?terms=%22wichita%20greyhound%20park%22&match=1.

“9 Aug 2007, 1 – The Wichita Eagle at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/704663016/?terms=%22wichita%20greyhound%20park%22&match=1.

Shaar, Deborah. “Sedgwick County Begins Process To Sell Greyhound Park Land.” KMUW | Wichita Public Radio, 30 Nov. 2017, www.kmuw.org/post/sedgwick-county-begins-process-sell-greyhound-park-land.

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Emily Cowan

Emily is a two-time published author of "Abandoned Oklahoma: Vanishing History of the Sooner State" and "Abandoned Topeka: Psychiatric Capital of the World". With over two hundred published articles on our websites. Exploring since 2018 every aspect of this has become a passion for her. From educating, fighting to preserve, writing, and learning about history there is nothing she would rather do.

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