The Colossal Ruins of Phoenix Trotting Park

The colossal ruins of Phoenix Trotting Park sit in the middle of a barren expanse of land just off I-10. Built 20 years before the freeway, the futuristic structure has sat for more than half a century, like a spaceship that landed in the middle of the desert, evoking mystified stares of passing motorists.

(Here's a video I made about Phoenix Trotting Park, which includes additional info and pictures not included in this blog entry:)

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

After an awkward encounter with a police officer in the morning (details at the end of this post) I decided to shave off the several days worth of facial scruff, hoping a tidier appearance would attract less scrutiny. I ate breakfast and drove to Goodyear, Arizona to check out the massive concrete horse racing park. 

The previous day I'd explored Black Canyon Greyhound Park and was completely blown away, but even that could not prepare me for the majesty of Phoenix Trotting Park. 


Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

The place was absolutely gigantic. I spent 3-4 hours there. 

The massive structure consists of more than 27,000 cubic yards of reinforced concrete.

The inner walls were stripped down to skeletons, but in some places you could get a sense of where the walls and windows had been.

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

The grandstand of Phoenix Trotting Park is enormous. I'd never seen something so gigantic yet totally abandoned. In the silence I tried to imagine what the place alive and filled with thousands of cheering spectators.

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

The building had so many levels, it seemed to go on forever.

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

I followed a stairway up to the roof and explored the sky box, where VIPs and announcers viewed the races. 

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

Someone had left cans of spray paint sitting out.

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

I saw a little structure off by itself on the roof, and couldn't resist having a closer look.

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

It appeared to be the control room for the elevator system. 

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

From the roof I enjoyed some great views of different sections of the structure.

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

One of the entrances: 
Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

A loading dock:
Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

The park was financed by James J. Dunnigan, who was also behind Buffalo Raceway in New York, which is still open today. 

Phoenix Trotting Park was a far less successful venture. Opened in 1965, it closed less than 2 years later. There are many reasons for its failure. 

Attendance was much lower than anticipated, partly due to competition from other well-established racing facilities in the area. Phoenix Trotting Park was built twenty miles from Downtown Phoenix and only accessible by way of dirt roads, making it a chore to get to. 

It was also insanely expensive to build. Originally budgeted at $3 million, it ended up costing about $10 million. Revenue failed to compensate for the difference. 

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

The park was used in 2000 for the filming of the movie "No Code of Conduct" starring Martin and Charlie Sheen. As part of the movie, and explosion was set off, with the unintended consequence of killing hundreds of pigeons that were roosting in the abandoned building. Fortunately there were no pigeon corpses lying around when I was there. 

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

But I did happen upon the mangled remains of a rabbit.

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

I'd read rumors of a squatter settlement in the basement and was determined to find out if there was any truth to it. With pepper spray in hand, I descended a dark stairway into the abyss.

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

There wasn't much down there, just a lot of open space and a few random fixtures,

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

the crippled elevator,

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

and the surprisingly small loading dock.
Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

I returned to the ground level and did a little more exploring.

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

About 45 minutes before I left, I heard the loud echoing of someone else exploring the place. It's so massive that it was impossible to know where the other person was. It made me realize there could not have been a squatter settlement anywhere inside the building or I'd have definitely heard them during the several hours I was there. 

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

I was extremely amused by this piece of graffiti. It's an obscure reference to a cartoon short by Don Hertzfeldt I'd seen years ago. 

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

When I was sure I'd explored every corner of the place, I headed back out into the Arizona sun. 

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

Phoenix Trotting Park Abandoned in Goodyear Arizona

As I walked back to my car, I felt so accomplished, I was shaking with excitement. Phoenix Trotting Park was one of the most incredible places I'd ever explored. It was such a thrill and an amazing high. I sent pictures to people back home and told them about where I'd just been. I probably sounded like a raving lunatic, but I was too excited to care.


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24 comments :

  1. Very nice series of photos--I imagine it's really incredible to be there in person.
    Where are you off to next?

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    1. Thanks, Sue! It was so amazing. Next week's post will be about a couple of neat old abandoned houses in Dateland, AZ that I explored later that day.

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  2. I have wondered about this place! Nice story!

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    1. Jimbo making a great article. About to adventure this one myself. -Zack b

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    2. Indeed! I've been a couple times to just look at the outside. Haven't made it in yet! Cant wait til later this week when I do a full exploration. It has to be one of the most amazing places to explore in az that I know about!

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  3. This is just amazing i am studying public design and this is really helping me so please keep posting your experience :)

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    1. I'm so glad you're finding it helpful. I will definitely keep posting. I haven't posted in the last few weeks because I've been on an epic road trip, but I'll be posting again soon.

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  4. It always pays off to be silent and aware of your surroundings when exploring alone.

    Great pictures.

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    1. Thank you. I agree; you can't be too careful. I'm glad you enjoyed the pics.

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  5. I've traveled through several of these places since I was a child and I've wondered about them myself! The story behind the abandoned structures. Please keep posting! I've seen many places through Texas that I hope you will post about one day.

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    1. Thanks so much! I'm glad you're enjoying my posts. I have been to the Houston area a few times and once drove from San Antonio to Los Angeles, stopping to spend the night in Bisbee, AZ. I didn't have a chance to stop and explore hardly any places in Texas, but I'm hoping I get to sometime soon. Most of my explorations have been in the Rust Belt and the Southwest, but I desperately want to take a trip through the rest of the southern states.

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  6. Recently started following your adventures, as we stayed at Desert Center for a month this winter. We also explored and got some great pictures around there and out at Corn Springs, etc. We are now parked in that RV park in back of the Phoenix Trotting Park. Haven't tried to go inside, though. Will be content with your great pictures.

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    1. Thank you for following my adventures! I'll admit I'm a little envious that you get to enjoy a view of Phoenix Trotting Park. It feels like ages since I was there.

      I haven't been to Corn Springs, but I may have to check it out next time I'm in the area.

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  7. First of all: INCREDIBLE photography. What is your camera of choice? Secondly. I'm so happy to have found your site. Last, my baby brother is in town & we are planning to go TRY to explore this place this upcoming weekend. You mentioned going in a certain side, from the view videos we've seen it looks like there is two fences and lots of fines for trespassing - was it the same when you visited & you were just careful? I don't want to get busted, but I've wanted to go inside this place for nearly two years now!!! Thanks for any info!

    (www.taushpointo.com) taushawierlo@gmail.com

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    1. Thank you, Tausha! I've been using the Sony RX100M3. It's one of the best pocketable cameras on the market. The quality is comparable to that of a larger DSLR, but it's nice and compact, so I don't have to worry about carrying around cumbersome equipment while I'm exploring.

      You and your brother are going to have an awesome time exploring Phoenix Trotting Park. Be sure to stay out of view of the trailer park to the south. There was a lot of fencing around the place, but most of it was collapsed and not really an obstacle.

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    2. Hi Jim, I too have enjoyed your photography work, you have a great eye and the information you provide on the subject matter. Very informative and I can't wait to go see some of these places as well. So you only use the Sony RX100M3 camera for all your photos? Or do you use other cameras? The picture quality is amazing and looking for a new camera. T

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  8. Hello again! Just wondering what street you parked your car on, and also how you entered from the north without being seen by the U-Haul and adjacent neighborhood that is across the street from the Park. I tried to visit a couple weeks ago, but was told to leave by a local. I want to try again, but this time do it right! Thanks :)

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    1. hello jessalyn, I went just a couple months ago and actually parked on a dirt road right by the trailer community directly behind trotting park. there, there is a bridge type thing that leads right to it. I also saw locals walking by but they did not say anything. definitely keep trying, it is so worth it. its my all time favorite place that I have explored.

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  9. Hi Jim, I too have enjoyed your photography work, you have a great eye and the information you provide on the subject matter. Very informative and I can't wait to go see some of these places as well. So you only use the Sony RX100M3 camera for all your photos? Or do you use other cameras? The picture quality is amazing and looking for a new camera.

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    1. Thank you, Valerie! I usually use the Sony RX100M3, but once in a while I'll use my phone (Samsung Note 4) if I've run out of batteries or don't have my camera on me.

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  10. this place is incredible. I went a couple months ago and could have explored it for HOURS.

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    1. I am also a huge fan of this site. awesome work! thanks from all avid explorers!!

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    2. Thank you, Alexis! Glad you're enjoying the site. And glad to hear you got a chance to see Phoenix Trotting Park. It really is an incredible place.

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