Demolition of the dog track next to Medical Center of the Rockies is almost done. Until a decision is made on how to use the site for medical purposes, part of it will be temporarily used for employee parking and growing crops.
The Loveland Reporter-Herald captured deconstruction of the Cloverleaf dog track in this timelapse video, above.
Before Medical Center of the Rockies was built, Poudre Valley Health System held a contest for employees to come up with the name for the new hospital (the winner was MCR cardiac nurse Susan Markley Miller). Among the 700 submitted names were a few in pure jest: Dog Track Hospital, Racetrack Hospital, Cloverleaf Hospital, Greyhound Hospital, and Bet to the Sky Hospital.
For decades it was a popular place for betting on the dogs. The track was open for only a few weeks in the summer. Attended by thousands of people, races were usually held in the evenings. Tingles on skin brought about by the cool night air enhanced the grand anticipation of winning the jackpot.
People came to watch the fast races where packs of muscle-bound greyhounds chased a fake bunny named Whizmo around the track. The dogs sprinted so rapidly it was nearly impossible to get in more than a blink before a race was over.
People came to socialize and partake of brew. And, of course, all came to bet, some heavily, others just a buck or two.
There were small fortunes won and large fortunate lost. It was all great fun.
Then the Cloverleaf Dog Racing Track, a landmark in northern Colorado, fell into severe disrepair. A million dollars was needed to bring it up to standards.
That's when the owners decided to fold their hand. The game had gone on for a half-century. They were out of chips.
'A good investment for the future'
The decaying building and the 41 acres there were sold two years ago to Poudre Valley Health System, which since about 2006 had the first option to buy if the site was ever put on the market. The dog track property is immediately north of the 100-acre Medical Center of the Rockies site.
"We knew this was a good investment for the future," said George Hayes, MCR president and CEO. "We don't have any current plans for developing the site, but it's wonderful to have the option available, whether we need the land five years from now or further in to the future."
Hayes said the organization learned a lot from Poudre Valley Hospital's experience. The PVH main campus sits on 19 acres, which seemed more than adequate when the hospital was constructed in the mid-1920 amid fields of corn and beets. Now, however, the site is landlocked by neighborhoods and businesses, making expansion beyond the original site expensively difficult, if not impossible.
"It's a luxury to have the extra land available near MCR," Hayes said.
Asbestos creates challenge
The demolition project will be completed in late June or early July, said Jim Niemczyk, project manager for McWhinney, the company conducting the demolition.
Taken down were a massive 105,000-square-foot, 3½-story, glass-enclosed grandstand and two additions where spectators went to bet and watch the races. The building's concrete caissons were buried 20 feet deep, and they had to come out. Underground pipes, utilities wiring and storage tanks were removed. Old sanitary facilities were carted off, too. Cottonwood trees were removed, but pines and lilac bushes were left untouched. All the while there was the ever-present clean up, the ongoing gathering up and trucking off rubble.
The structures were demolished slowly by heavy equipment rather than an explosion that would have brought down everything at once -- too much dust, too much noise considering that MCR is next door.
Asbestos removal created a major challenge. The race track and buildings were constructed in 1955 -- before the government banned the use of asbestos in such structures -- and once demolition began, crews discovered how much asbestos was used. Abatement plans were developed and approved by the Colorado Department of Public Health. All asbestos material in the building was meticulously removed under current state criteria. Air sampling was done throughout the project to ensure that external areas would not be impacted.
In March, when the demolition was in the early stages, the Denver Post reported about how time-consuming and labor-intensive the project had become because of asbestos.
"Every time we would take down a wall, we'd find something else underneath we had to deal with," Niemczyk was reported as saying. "We experienced a lot more overall quantity of asbestos than we expected."
Now, with just days until project completion, Niemczyk is breathing a sigh of relief.
"I'll be more than eager to pop a bottle of champagne when it's done," he said, chuckling.
Although no current plans exist for developing the site, the land will not lie idle, collecting weeds and bits of paper trash blown in from here and there.
An outbuilding on the site remains standing. MCR's Facilities Services will use the building to store snow-removal and other equipment.
One of McWhinney's final steps will be to prepare most of the land to be leased for farm use for growing winter wheat or other crops. The temporary use of the land in this way benefits local agriculture and the economy, and brings in some revenue.
A temporary parking lot with about 130 stalls will be constructed for the vehicles of Information Technology employees who will soon gather at MCR to work on the upcoming Epic conversion for University of Colorado Health's northern hospitals. The employees will come from the IT departments in Automation Way in Fort Collins and University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora.
University of Colorado Health employees dedicate themselves to providing patients and other customers with world-class care and service. Outside organizations recognize that, calling University of Colorado Health's hospitals some of the best in Colorado and even the best in the nation. Some of those accolades are listed below:
University of Colorado Health Fort Collins, Colorado 970.495.7000 PVHS@pvhs.org