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VIDEO VAULT | Henderson's failed greyhound racing track was meant to feature horse racing

VIP Grand Opening January 13 1981.jpg

If you've ever driven by Racetrack Road in Henderson, you might wonder "Where's the racetrack?"

It's been gone for decades.

The planning for had started in 1969 and it finally opened in January of 1981.

"The realization of Las Vegas Downs was not something that happened overnight," said News 3's Steve Schorr at the Grand Opening. "As a matter of fact, it was over twelve years involved. But as the track got its official showing to the press and VIPs, it seems as though those twelve years just went away. Almost like they were never there."

Even though the doors had opened, it was still a work in progress.

"The track itself has a twofold purpose," continued Schorr. "First, the inside track will provide greyhound racing. Second, the outside track, beginning in January of 1982 will provide thoroughbred and quarter horse racing."

The equine aspect wasn't just wishful thinking. The addition of horses was part of the legislation that allowed the track to be built. But by the new year, it was still just for dogs. Managing Director David J. Funk had some explaining to do for the State Racing Commission.

"We feel that there was a lot of reasons business was not as good as it should have been," Funk told the commissioners. "And it does mean attracting additional investment."

The Funk family (which included David's father and brother) was looking for a loophole in the law. They got some help from the Las Vegas City Attorney, who also served on the Racing Commission.

"I would step into the breach and interpret it any damned way I felt was in the best interests of the people of Southern Nevada," testified George Franklin.

The extension was granted. Then, the Funks came up with even loftier goals.

"If owners of Las Vegas Downs have their way, this dog racing facility will expand into a major resort on Boulder Highway," reported News 3' Liz Wilson in 1982. "Designs of the $85 to $100 million project show additions of a Spanish style casino hotel complex, shopping center, golf course, clubhouse and pro shop. Owner David Funk says he needs $16 million for the first phase, but concedes he may not get it in one chunk."

"The entire $16 million may not be available," shrugged Funk. "We know that enough will be available to provide us with operating capital and proceed with greyhound racing."

"But not horse racing, and there's the rub," added Wilson. "The law allowing dog racing here said horses had to start running within two years. They didn't. Now Funk wants to change the law, a five-year delay on horse racing to save that initial expense."

In a sluggish economy slowly emerging from a recession and a lack of public enthusiasm for dog racing, the odds seemed long. Still, the family tried to keep the dream alive.

"David Funk believes in the next eight weeks or so, he will have resolved his need for more time and the initial financing," reported Wilson. "By that time too, he anticipates having filed for a Nevada gaming license.

But the financing never came through, and by 1983 Las Vegas Downs was closed and was subject to foreclosure proceedings.

News 3 checked back on the property in 1986 and it deteriorating and overgrown with brush. It was an empty ghost of broken dreams.

That land is all residential housing now, just north of Boulder Highway at Racetrack Road.

David Funk went on to other successful business ventures, and passed away in 2005 at age 63.

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