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NORTHFIELD PARK

NORTHFIELD PARK was opened on 23 August 1957 to capitalize on a renewed interest in harness-racing. On Rt. 8 on the border between Cuyahoga and Summit counties, the half-mile track was built by Walter J. Michael, horse farmer, president of the old Grandview Race Track, and head of the U.S. Trotting Assn. Northfield, Grandview, and Painesville operations divided a yearly average of 150 nights of harness racing. Northfield acquired the Grandview events and the 84-acre property after a fire destroyed its grandstand and clubhouse in 1959 and used its remaining facilities for training and stabling.

Originally considered an old man's sport, harness racing during Northfield's first 10 years of operation saw the drivers' average age drop from the mid-40s to the high 20s. Meanwhile, the number of fans in attendance increased along with the betting, but by the 1970s competition from running tracks such as THISTLEDOWN RACE TRACK led to money-losing meets at Northfield. In 1972 Michael sold the track for $7.5 million to a group of investors, including Carl Milstein, Robert Stakich, and George Steinbrenner. Michael continued to operate the meets until 1974, when he sold the Northfield meet to Cleveland lawyer William Snyder, Dr. Vic Ippolito, and others. In 1976 Northfield's new operators expanded its season into winter, racing over 200 days; its winter meets were successful, since the fans viewed the race from a glass-enclosed clubhouse and grandstand. However, the track continued to lose money in the 1970s. The Northfield operators bought the Painesville meet from Homer Marshman, giving them control of all the harness racing meets in 1981. In 1983 458,000 people attended its races and bet $65 million, but the track lost $1 million. After the racing industry received a $12.4 million tax break from the state legislature in 1984, track owner Milstein evicted the meet operators, claiming they were in arrears on lease payments and other bills. The Ohio Racing Commission gave the racing dates for the new season to Milstein, who promptly added Sunday racing to the winter season and made other improvements designed to increase business. Northfield commenced year-round racing in 1985. Milstein passed away in the fall of 1999 and his son, Brock, tock over operation of the track. Myron Charna was Northfield Park's president as of 2002.