Many celebrities will converge on SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif., when the Rams and Bengals meet in the Super Bowl on Sunday. And although the stadium is only two years old, the site is certainly no stranger to glamour.
The stadium was built on a site a few miles east of Los Angeles International Airport that once housed Hollywood Park, an Art Deco racetrack that steeped the sport of Hollywood royalty.
Backed by a group of shareholders that included prominent Hollywood actors like Jack Warner, Samuel Goldwyn, Walt Disney and Bing Crosby, the track opened on June 10, 1938, becoming a national holiday among the studios.
The 265-acre track of lakes and flowers, as it was affectionately known, was a place to see and be seen, especially in the members-only turf club, which was frequented by stars like Cary Grant, Joan Crawford , Fred Astaire, Mickey Rooney, Bob Hope, John Wayne, Alfred Hitchcock, Tony Curtis and Carol Burnett, to name a few. And while stars adorned the stand, flamingos inhabited the infield.
The track has also hosted many famous racehorses and jockeys. In 1938, the year it opened, Seabiscuit won the first Gold Cup. In 1951, Triple Crown winner Citation added the Gold Cup to his resume, becoming the first million-dollar racehorse. In 1977, after its own Triple Crown sweep, Seattle Slew was upset in the Swaps Stakes. In 1979, Affirmed won the Gold Cup to become the first $2 million horse. In 1984, the first Breeders’ Cup was held in Hollywood Park; he returned in 1987 and 1997. In 1999 at the track, Laffit Pincay Jr. surpassed Bill Shoemaker’s record for wins by a jockey.
In 2007, a horse named Zenyatta, owned by record producer Jerry Moss and named after The Police’s album Zenyatta Mondatta, debuted. She won 19 consecutive races, including eight at Hollywood Park. As his streak and legend grew, the electricity on the circuit resembled the glory days of yore.
On December 22, 2013, the bugler played the final “Call to the Post” followed by “Hooray for Hollywood”. California Chrome, the fourth California-born to win the Kentucky Derby, won the race at the final stakes. On May 31, 2015, the iconic stand was demolished, making way for the 298-acre mixed-use development which includes the stadium, a hotel, commercial and retail spaces, residential units and a park.
Nowhere is a statue of Shoemaker and Swaps, a California rancher who won the 1955 Derby and set four Hollywood Park records, three of which were world marks, that once adorned the entrance to the clubhouse and were intended Development.
But some remnants of that old Hollywood era remain. The flamingos have been transferred to a nearby zoo. Graves of famous horses buried at the track have been moved to other tracks or farms. The ficuses that dotted the ground were replanted near the stadium. Pincay Drive, honoring Pincay Jr.’s lifetime victories, more of which have occurred in Hollywood Park than anywhere else, cuts east to west between Crenshaw Boulevard and Prairie Avenue.
And the show – and the celebrities accompanying it, of course – continues.