The Payson Downs Racetrack Grandstands have been demolished, and the future of the track itself is in doubt, but even that can't pull the reins and bring Labor Day horse racing in Payson to a halt.
Members of the Payson City Council recently voted 3-2 to seek as much as $4,000 to fund the 1994 Labor Day Horse Races at Payson Downs, though the council had previously left the long-standing city tradition unfunded while undergoing this year's municipal budgeting process.Councilman Bob Provstgaard, one of three councilmen who voted to raze the grandstands in July, made the motion to continue funding the races, which are held for two days during the Labor Day weekend and the Payson Golden Onion Days Celebrations.
Kay Furniss and Jim Griffin, the council members who opposed the grandstand demolition, also voted to support the races.
However, Councilmen Fred Swain and Kirk Mittelman opposed the motion, saying they understood that the previous year's races would be the last funded by the city.
In late July, Payson city crews demolished the Payson Downs Racetrack Grandstands, after giving the 75-year-old structure a temporary reprieve while architects performed a restoration feasibility study.
The council, in a split vote, empowered the crews to raze the grandstands, which were damaged in this summer's microburst windstorm and were judged to be unsafe by the city building inspector. The council had actually voted to tear down the grandstands in June but received no bids from interested companies. Instead, city workers had to be used. Once power lines were cut and a crane leveled the stands, members of Payson's volunteer fire department burned the wooden struc-ture.
The demolition brought out as many as 100 Payson residents, many of whom demonstrated against tearing down the grandstands. Despite the presence of the protesters, Payson police officers were not forced to remove any of them forcibly. Last-minute efforts for a reprieve from Gov. Mike Leavitt's office and from the courts failed.
For race seating, portable bleachers will be moved from the Hillman Field baseball complex to Payson Downs. Besides the grandstands, no other structures were damaged at the track.
Angry residents, though, charge that the grandstand demolition is just the first move by the council and other city officials to close the Payson Downs Racetrack and possibly sell the 40 acres for residential or commercial development. City officials are scheduled to meet with interested groups, including the Payson Racing Association, Aug. 9 to discuss future plans for the track.