U.S. Water News Online
By Tori L. Durliat
As synthetic racing surfaces become more common, so does the
installation of drainage systems beneath them
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- In horse racing, horse and jockey safety
is top priority. Racetracks across the world are continually looking
for ways to make their racing surfaces safer and more consistent.
With conventional dirt tracks, water drains horizontally which can
compromise the track's condition by allowing it to freeze in cold
temperatures or become muddy after hard rains. These types of
conditions could lead to a decrease in the number of starters,
increase in the number of injuries and in the number of cancelled
racing days - all of which can contribute to unappealing wagering and
reduced track attendance.
Some racetracks are turning to improved drainage and synthetic
racing surfaces, like Polytrack, to help solve the problem.
This particular surface is made from a blend of fibers, recycled
rubber and silica sand covered with a wax coating that allows water
to flow vertically through the top surface to the sub layers below
and helps avoid a freezing or inconsistent racetrack. The sub layers
include porous macadam and dense aggregate rock that provide a solid
foundation while the vertical drainage system carries water away from
the track. Together they work to provide a safer, more consistent
racing surface in comparison to conventional dirt tracks.
To date, three North American racing facilities have announced
they will install this type of track and drainage system. Keeneland,
located in Lexington, Kentucky was one of them.
In the heart of Kentucky's Bluegrass Region, this storied
racetrack was originally built in the 1930s and has since played host
to some of the greatest races in the history of the sport. Keeneland
has also welcomed many notable people over the years, including Queen
Elizabeth II, Former President George Bush Sr., The Princess Royal
and Princess Anne of England.
A lot had changed throughout the years. Keeneland's grandstand,
concessions and wagering technology had all been modernized, but,
surprisingly, the main racetrack's design and layout had stayed the
In 2006, the time had come to say goodbye to the old dirt track.
Keeneland Association Officials made the decision to replace it with
the vertical drainage system and Polytrack combination. "Our track
has not changed much in it was laid out and constructed using mules
prior to our first race meeting in 1936. The time had come for us to
take advantage of the latest, cutting edge advancements to create the
safest racing environment possible, furthering the mission outlined
by our founders to build a model racetrack," says Keeneland's
President and CEO, Nick Nicholson.
Keeneland's existing dirt track was not having drainage problems.
The reason the new vertical drainage system was installed was because
it's a prerequisite to the Polytrack. One needs the other to function
properly and the success of the final product is totally dependent on
the two working in unison.
The installation process was quite extensive and the deadlines
tight. The project began in May and needed to be complete by the end
of August - in time for Keeneland's fall race meeting. Engineers and
contractors were all under pressure and knew if they were to complete
this project on time, superior, and versatile drainage products would
have to be used.
The drainage system was constructed using Advanced Drainage
Systems (ADS®) pipes and Nyloplast® structures and basins.
Engineers and contractors who worked on the project all stressed the
fact that the success of this synthetic racing surface is dependent
on the quality of the drainage system installed underneath it.
GRW, Inc. Engineer, Harvey Helm, recommended ADS pipe and
Nyloplast structures and Keeneland, who had used ADS products in the
"We chose ADS because of the quality of their products, their
lower installation costs, lightweight design and practicality when
working under tight deadlines and restrictions. We have always had
good success with these products and that's why I recommended them,"
Three runs of perforated pipe running parallel to each other
around the track were put in place, spaced about 20 feet apart. Then
every three hundred feet around the track the three perforated pipes
were connected to a cross-drain perforated pipe that ran toward the
inside of the track. These cross drains connected to the Nyloplast
manholes, which were spaced three hundred feet apart.
Under the inner part of the track, just past the rail, a system of
pipe was installed to gather the water coming from the track to the
Nyloplast manholes. This system drained in multiple directions around
the entire inner portion of the track. The pipe diameter ranged from
8" at the high point and grew in diameter to 30" at the low point.
At the low point of the manhole, a 42" diameter pipe was placed
across the track and over the back slope to an existing manhole.
Pipes and basins were also used around the clubhouse lawn areas
for drainage of the newly established grades.
Elevation of the grandstand apron changed as well. This required
an end-to-end drainage structure to empty the runoff of the trench
and roof drains.
All told, the track and drainage installation incorporated almost
9000' of ADS drainage pipe and 62 Nyloplast Structures and basins,
16,000 tons of specialized Polytrack material, 90,000 tons of
limestone and 4,500 tons of porous asphalt.
"The ease of adjustment on the Nyloplast really played a key role,
especially in the grandstand area because of the number of existing
roof drains. We used ADS pipe to tie the new system into the existing
one," says Tommy Cramer, Project Manager, Central Rock Mineral
Company. "The pipe with its longer length and ease of use with the
Nyloplast made for an ideal setup," adds David Curry, Vice President,
Central Rock Mineral Company.
The new track has already been put to the test. Shortly after the
installation, a record setting rainfall poured down and the new
drainage system passed with flying colors.
The track's inaugural fall race meeting, held October 6 to 28,
2006, was a huge success. Results included an increase in total
wagering, record attendance and average field size of 10.02 starters
The new design also attracted an extraordinarily high number of
starters, as well as a large contingent of Breeders' Cup-bound
"This meet has been extraordinary for us in so many ways," said
Nick Nicholson, President and CEO of Keeneland. "While we are proud
of the many records that were set, we are even more proud of how well
the Polytrack surface and ADS drainage system performed. It remained
very safe throughout the meet, despite getting more than twice the
usual amount of rainfall during the month."
The Future of Racetrack Drainage
In early 2006, the California Horse Racing Board declared that all
major tracks in the state would have to install a synthetic surface
by December 31, 2007 or have their racing licenses annulled. Is this
the start of a trend? If so, racetracks, engineers and contractors
should all be comforted in knowing that their collective drainage
needs can be fulfilled, just as Keeneland's were, by ADS products and
For more information, please contact Tori L. Durliat, Corporate
Manager for Marketing and Communications, Advanced Drainage Systems,
(419)424-8275 or by email at Tori.Durliat@ads-pipe.com.
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