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2020 Update

Great Lakes Downs started out in 1989 as Muskegon Racecourse a five eights mile harness track. The track was located a few miles Southeast of Muskegon, which is on the shores of Lake Michigan. It was a winterized, glass enclosed grandstand, and clubhouse. The clubhouse seating 3,500, the grandstand 7,000, there was parking for 3,500 cars. Great Lakes Downs primarily raced as a bridge track, with year round simulcasting.     

In May of 1989 another story without a happy ending begin. Muskegon Race Course became Michigan's newest raceway, the second harness track built in three years.

Muskegon Race Course raced through the nineties with  summer meets that offered purses that averaged a thousand dollars. In 1995 simulcast wagering was authorized in Michigan, things should have been improving, but in 1997 after running only six nights, Muskegon suddenly closed. In a desperate move to save thoroughbred racing in Michigan, after Detroit Race Course closed, the Muskegon track was rebuilt, renamed, and re-opened as Michigan's only thoroughbred race track in 1999.

In the year 2000 Great Lakes Downs gained national attention when it was snatched up by the Magna group, which was buying up race tracks all over the place. Unfortunately after a few years the Magna initiative ran out of steam and Great Lakes became a liability. Sadly, in November of 2007 the Muskegon oval closed it's doors forever. In 2009 the track buildings were demolished.

In 2013 the track property still exists, the racing oval still visible, to this time several attempts to put a casino on the site have failed. 

  I managed to make it to Great Lakes Downs once, and luckily I went when I did, it was June of 2007, and the tracks days were numbered. About all I remember was that to get to the track from the parking lot you had to climb a long set of annoying stairs, these were necessary because they plopped the place on a pile of dirt so it could be elevated over the track surface.

2020 Update

Great lakes Downs is deader than a doornail, but so are the plans to build a casino there. It looks like the Indian Nation draws the line at making money. The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, who bought the property, were challenged by three other tribes who have casino's. They have affectively blocked the building of the casino at Great Lakes Downs. So for now the grounds are still there, the grandstand and barns are gone, but you could still tell a track existed.