Photos by Aaron S. Terry, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.29
Turf Paradise 1501 W Bell Rd Phoenix, AZ 85023
Year Opened: 1956
Live Racing Phoenix
Turf Paradise opened in 1956 and offers live horse racing Monday through Wednesday and on Saturdays from November until early May – they occasionally have live racing on Sundays, Thursdays, & Fridays. There is a turf club on the second floor where you can make bets (either using a computer or at a window with a live attendant) and have food and drinks.
There is also a clubhouse where you can sit indoors and watch the races, but there are no concessions in the clubhouse. You are also welcome to watch from outdoors, and you can walk up and watch the horses led around before each race, or watch the ceremony in the winner’s circle following each race.
Food & Beverage 4
The clubhouse offers tables with servers – each table has a TV on it so you can watch the races; patrons order from the menu and have their food and drinks brought to them. $5 will be added to your bill if you choose to use this tableside service; otherwise, you can walk up to the bar area near the betting machines and order food and drinks from there, and take it with you to eat elsewhere on the property. There is also a bar area outside where a few people sit and watch the races as they eat and drink.
The indoor facilities at Turf Paradise are a little dilapidated, and there are not a whole lot of people there – the clubhouse portion is pretty much deserted, although there are quite a few people in the turf club eating and drinking at their tables while watching the races. I will say the staff is extremely friendly and polite, doing little things to make sure you enjoy your visit.
The outdoor grounds, however, are gorgeous – beautiful trees and scenery, the signage and gates are nicely painted, and there are wonderful flowers and greenery around the stables and winner’s circle. You can also get very close to the horses as they are being led around, and you can stand right up against the fence to watch the racing, if you like getting close to the action – you can hear the pounding of the hooves as they come in for the finish.
Turf Paradise is located on Bell Road on the North side of Phoenix, about 15 miles from downtown. There is a Walmart nearby and some fast food restaurants, as well as a golf course and a couple of parks. Further out you can find the Tonto National Forest, and of course, there are plenty of entertainment options and restaurants to be found if you want to explore downtown, including other sports venues like Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, or Footprint Center, home of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns and indoor football’s Arizona Rattlers. There are also plenty of hotels in the area, depending on what price point you are looking for and how far you are willing to drive.
There are not a whole lot of fans at Turf Paradise, but the people I met were very friendly and willing to chat and share stories of their gambling triumphs and failures. There is a small amount of cheering for certain horses going on as each race finishes, but horse racing is more of an individual sport as far as the fans go, as most people are there to wager, so you don’t necessarily expect (or want) a lot of crowd noise.
Getting to Turf Paradise is pretty simple, though Phoenix does have a bit of construction going on right now, including some closures to parts of I-10 and I-17. That said, you may have to take a detour depending on what month or day of the week you are there.
Once you get to the venue itself, you can park for free on-site, and getting into the clubhouse or turf club is hassle-free – there are no lines to speak of and there is plenty of room to move around. You might find a bit of a line to make your bet right before the race, but if you go a little early you shouldn’t have a problem.
I will say a staff member did make me get my hand stamped when I entered the turf club the first time, but I am not sure why as turf club entry is part of the regular ticket price. Also, there is no one guarding the downstairs entrance, so I could have walked around and used the other escalator to get directly into the turf club, instead of going to the clubhouse first and entering the turf club from there.
Return on Investment 5
It only costs $5 to get into Turf Paradise (another $1 for a program), and that price is well worth it. I had a great time – I enjoyed chatting with a couple of other patrons, won a few bets, and enjoyed walking down to see the horses and watching the races. I would recommend a visit to this facility.
There aren’t any extras to speak of – folks are there for the betting, and if you happen to want to eat lunch (or dinner) while you watch the races you can do that too. You can also get an up-close look at the horses if you want.
I will mention that Turf Paradise is also an off-track betting location (besides hosting its live races), meaning that you can bet on races at other tracks around the country, and watch those races (on TV) as well – there is a large bank of TVs in the turf club showing racing action from all over the country.
If you have never seen live horse racing I recommend it, and Turf Paradise is a great place to do it. The only downside is the building itself is a little dated, but the people are friendly, the outside grounds are beautiful, and you can also get close to the action. Most importantly, though, you can have a fun and easy time betting on the ponies – that matters when it comes to horse racing.