Willow Park, TX. Trinity Meadows Race Track has been sitting vacant for more than 20 years, a place that has been victimized by time and vandals, a refuge to countless birds, yellowjackets and small critters.
Trinity Meadows is where horses raced before Lone Star Park opened in Grand Prairie. It had previously been named Clear Fork Downs and later, Squaw Creek Downs.
But now, as sprawl continues to encroach into Parker County, Trinity Meadows is about to be no more.
Beginning the first week in September, the remaining 9,000-seat grandstand — a visual icon for motorists heading west on Interstate 20 — will be torn down.
Cisco-based Wilks Development, owners of the property, said memories of the race track would live on as they transform in the property into a mixed-used development.
“We looked at building an event center, that was originally our plan,” said Kyle Wilks, president of the company. “We looked at it in detail. But the more we dug into the economics … it became very questionable. As a private entity, it’s hard to own and operate a facility like an event center. That’s why most often you see municipalities own and operate them.”
Already, there are apartments and a Texas Health Resources hospital fronting westbound Interstate 20, with Trinity Meadows looming in the background.
Wilks said the new development will include more housing to feed the growing retail boom, including the nearby Shops at Willow Park.
“We’re doing things to bring value to Parker County,” Wilks said. “We have more than 40 acres of green space and trails that lead throughout the development.”
‘All kinds of gems’
Wilks said his company has owned the Trinity Meadows property for a little more than a year and staff had many conversations about what to do with the property — especially the grandstands.
“We thought of anything and everything to figure out how we could save the building,” Wilks said. “Everyone is sensitive about what happens to it and what ultimately comes of it. How do you take something that is in such disrepair and memorializes it, so people don’t forget?”
Wilks said once the grandstands come down they hope to use its large beams on a bridge across Trinity Creek to to link the existing development to the planned apartments.
The horse racing poles on the track will be refurbished and place throughout the property as a reminder of what it used to be. There’s even a grave and a marker on the premises honoring a horse that once raced at Trinity.
“There are all kinds of gems like this on the property,” Wilks said. “That will be our challenge, to bring this area into the future while being respectful of its past.”
‘A love/hate relationship’
When the race track opened in the 1960s it was without (legal) gambling and was named Clear Fork Downs. Later, it became Squaw Creek Downs.
After being purchased by new owners and renamed Trinity Meadows, the track opened in 1991 as one of the first horse racing venues to cash in on legalized parimutuel betting in Texas. Profits were turned early, but when Lone Star Park opened in Grand Prairie, smack dab in between Fort Worth and Dallas, Trinity Meadows suffered.
It closed in August 1996, leaving 300 people unemployed.
“The local community had a love/hate relationship with it,” said Parker County Judge Mark Riley. “Obviously brought in jobs and some money into the community, but the hate side was for the people that lived near it.”
Riley said those living near the facility did not like having their lives disrupted, especially on race days.
“I’ll never forget the first day the track opened,” Riley said. “Traffic backed up on the access road way past the Aledo cutoff. The line of cars looked like they were back up to downtown Fort Worth.”
Riley said despite the traffic problems that came with Trinity Meadows, it was exciting for Parker County to have a major attraction.
“There was nothing like it around in the Metroplex,” Riley said.
One of the poles remaining at Trinity Meadows in Willow Park.