Metairie (Images of America)

Magnolia Park/Jefferson Downs/Lafreniere Park


Felix Bonura served as the president of the 427 acre multi-million dollar pari-mutual Magnolia Park Inc. Harness Racing course which opened in 1954 on Frank J. Clancy Boulevard (now Downs Boulevard) on what was a portion of what was originally La Freniere concession. The company built a $100,000 road (David Drive?) from Airline Highway to the track where there was parking for 5000 vehicles, seating for 2500 in the grandstand (the dining area seated 600) and accommodations for over 10,000 people on the grounds. Barns provided spaces for 600 horses on the 227 acre track. The remaining 200 acres was later used for housing development. The harness racing season ran from September to Thanksgiving Day (when the New Orleans Fairgrounds opened each year). In 1959 the track was renamed Jefferson Downs which offered nighttime horse racing. It closed in 1965. The land later became Lafreniere Park whose groundbreaking was celebrated in 1977 -- the park was dedicated and opened in 1982. (Courtesy of the Jefferson Parish Yearly Review.) 

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