There’s an abandoned dog track in Black Canyon City north of Phoenix. Abandoned means abandoned here: while there’s nothing to stop you from exploring it, there is also nothing that says that’s OK. So if you follow my footsteps here, you do so at your own risk. Or, you can just read on and take my word for it.
A few years ago, I had an offer to write a book about strange things to do in and around Phoenix. That fell apart, but before that could happen I made it out to the Black Canyon Dog Track to see how much of the rumors are true.
Again – this is a legal grey area, and if you go – YOU GO AT YOUR OWN RISK. This is an abandoned building on what is presumably private property. There are no barriers to trespass – no signs, fences or doors. Someday, some insurance firm will notice this and do something about it, but for now it’s just there.
To get there, take I-17 north from Phoenix to Coldwater Canyon (Exit 244) which is on the north end of Black Canyon City. Head west along Cold Canyon to Maggie Mine Road. The pullout on the NW corner of that intersection is as good as spot as any to park the car.
The site has basically four features: The main grandstands, an adjacent restaurant, the overgrown track itself, and the distant kennels. Of these the stands and the restaurant are the most interesting. The kennels are a row of empty sheds. The dog track is exactly what it looks like from the stands.
Wear sturdy shoes. The insides floors are covered with broken glass and exposed nails. The outside is choked with cactus. As we walk through the non-extant doors of the stands, I remind you one more time:
EXPLORING THIS SITE WOULD BE ENTIRELY AT YOUR OWN RISK – and this risk is not inconsiderable. Aside from the broken glass and timbers, the walls are crumbling, and full of mold. the extant counters are covered in vermin droppings, many surfaces (particularly upstairs) are unsafe to walk on. All of that in addition to the normal proviso about poisonous insects and snakes. There is no one to sue if you get hurt. And if you find someone, they are going to use the word trespassing – a lot.
And that’s in the daylight. This site is clearly a habitat for drunken teens and their angst, and visiting at night might add whole new layers of unwelcome excitement.
Besides leaving beer bottle and the like, the alternate visitors have decorated. Every flat, clear surface has graffitti ranging from the hatefully ignorant to the deeply artistic, to the oddly profound.
There is not as much trash as you would expect. Most of the debris is left from the dogtrack itself. The scattering of beer cans and paint bottles are the exception. So there’s a mystery: Who picks up the trash?
Can you climb up on the roof and reach the “press boxes”. Yes. Should you? No. Did I? No comment.
The facility opened in 1967 and operated as a dog track until 1982, and then intermittently as a swap meet site further into the 1980’s. It has not hosted a public event since 1988.
Built and originally operated by the Funk Family, and later included in the Western Racing chain which operated dog tracks across several states. The business history is more legend than fact, as these businesses are not known for their transparency.
While the wild rumor about a mass murder at the track that you could find on Redit and other sticky places on the web is certainly fabricated, the Funk Family was closely associated with the Emerson group which operated Phoenix Greyhound Park. Both of those outfits were associated with organized crime.
Their names come up in the 1976 murder of Arizona Republic investigative reporter Don Bolles. In the vague yet convoluted fallout from that, the Funk family was obliged to divest itself of racing interests in Arizona. Sportsystems Incorporated ran the track to its last race, but apparently, with honest accounting and changing tastes in gambling, the dog track business was not what it used to be.
Thirty years and counting of disinterest have followed. And you can poke around in crumbling remains of how men once made money from shadows by getting dogs to run around a track as fast as they could. But watch your step.
Watching your step is good advice from any era.
I plan to add a video to this subject, but in the meantime, the one below is relatively recent, and really well done.