Abandoned Arizona – Phoenix Trotting Park – Goodyear, AZ (Demolished)
Stationary living is different than wandering around aimlessly, especially in the desert. The dry heat baking my skin, sand sticking to the corners of my eyes, and monotonous scenery are just a few reasons I dislike Arizona. But, recently, I took a step back to appreciate everything and accept this change as a new journey down a different road with newly shared experiences and explorations. Much of the last two years of my life I spent in and out of homelessness to experience true freedom as a wandering, free-spirited soul, soaking up the most beautiful views previously envied through photographs. Photographs of places I only dreamed of going, but never actually expected to end up. Now I find myself here to follow love and put my passion for travel on hold, but not in the way you would think. Although I find myself apartment dwelling, I still find time to hit the road.
My recent travels took me to the abandoned Phoenix Trotting Park a few miles from my residence in Goodyear, AZ. This relic shut its doors back in the 1960’s after only a few years on the tracks. Rumor says mob bosses once ran it, but who knows? The park is regularly patrolled and people in the adjacent mobile home community report trespassers. Luckily I did not go there by vehicle, but by bicycle. After a 5-mile trek I turned onto a dirt road parallel to I-10. Peering out over my shoulder through the abandoned desert fields covered in tumbleweeds, trash and debris I saw the hi-tech structure behind two barbed wire fences. I casually slipped in through the fence and hid my bicycle in some brush next to a concrete pad. (A Goodyear homebum regularly patrols the area sporting a wooden walking stick, beer belly, shorts and no t-shirt. Don’t worry he won’t call the police on you, but don’t let him scare you off.)
I stalked the perimeter of the fencing looking for a way into the abandoned building. After circling some of the chain link fence I found a way in through a small hole. Someone ripped a corner in the chain link fence just enough to squeeze through it for entry. The next fence sported razor wire on top of a thick black bar fence protecting the perimeter of the building. I felt hopeless without a rug, but I walked along the fence tapping the bars with my arm as my eyes wandered up the decaying walls of the structure. Suddenly, I noticed a bar missing in the fence. It looked like someone used an acetylene torch to remove one of the thick bars giving me just enough room to slide my small, skinny torso through the fence.
The town of Goodyear put a lot of effort into securing the abandoned Phoenix Trotting Park from trespassers and urban explorers, but they failed. Every security measure installed had been breached by prior trespassers before me. This made it easy for me to slip between the cracks. Upon entering the structure I walked up the first flight of stairs in my field of vision stumbling upon another barrier. I pried myself between the missing bar in the fence and climbed up onto the ledge where I entered the stadium. Concrete stairs covered in 40 years of bird poop stood before me with a windowless pane of the Estrella Mountains painted through its face. For its time the structure looked architecturally advanced and futuristic reminding me of the Jetsons. I marched up the steps raising my legs to thigh height due to the space between each step. As I entered the stairwell more graffiti appeared scribbled on the walls. Death pointed down below in big Red letters along with the occasional cock and profane phrase sprouting up in every room. I laughed as I tiptoed through the gutted rooms peering through rusted, creaky doors leading to nowhere. As I walked through the gutted metal framing on the top floor I began to stumble upon the usual graffiti seen at every abandoned building. What is that you ask? Pentagrams and the Anarchy symbol popped up on the far side of the building, but some stunning street art lined the walls of the stairwell. (I won’t spoil it with words. See it for yourself someday!)
My eyes shifted to my left where they glued on to the decaying escalator. The handrails drooped off each side exposing the rusted, dilapidated gears. Missing steps, step rollers, non-existent balustrades and motors left the escalator in squalor, but I still ventured up balancing my toes on the remaining metal steps until crawling through the top shaft. I poked my head through a curtain of debris leading me back to the top of the concrete stadium. As I wandered around I found yet another stairwell leading to the roof. I grabbed onto the sharp metal handrail and climbed the stairs, my legs tingling, palms sweating and heart racing from the darkness protruding through every room above me. I walked around in complete darkness without a flashlight. Light shined its rays in through random cracks in the wall and after little effort I found my way to the rooftops overlooking Goodyear and I-10. I walked through the drainage ditch to the other side stepping over the protruding concrete blocks that spanned the roof. They were spaced every few feet and looked like notches of a gear. The sunset from above looked gorgeous. The oranges, reds and yellows swirling along the horizon made me doze off into a trance. My eyes following the colors of beauty as they dropped away slowly fading to black. I rushed to check out the final room, the sky box overlooking the trotting park. Next the door, spray painted in red, “Red Light I’ll Get U” faded away on the metal paneling. Other graffiti tags covered the paneling, but this one stood out as I snuck in to the rickety sky box. My eyes set on big blue letters, “DO NOT ENTER” on the door ahead of me as I peered around the bend. Every room looked completely gutted and unstable. I continued onward down the steps looking out at the mountains in the distance noticing the sky slowly fade to black as I peeped out of the sky box. I heard about a basement in the Trotting Park, but due to lack of daylight, no headlamp and being alone I darted for the ground level. After a few minutes of running through dark stairwells I finally made it to the first floor and squeezed through the fencing, my chariot awaiting me. I pedaled fast to make it home before the cold desert night opened its doors on my naked skin.
Much of the weeks between exploring the abandoned Arizona trotting park felt uneventful and depressing as I searched for work. I spent much of my time sleeping on chaotic schedules, watching Netflix and feeling like a complete bum in my dirty clothes. The indoors raped my soul and affected my mood negatively as I patiently waited to hear back from jobs. I thought my search for work would be much easier because as a traveler I picked up many skills on and off the road to make me handy for any kind of work. After multiple jobs falling through with incompetent people whose words meant zilch I found myself suffocating, not due to lack of work, but lack of wanderlust and boredom. As a last resort Kelly contacted an old friend and I found myself a job as a banquet server at Palm Valley Golf Club catering weddings and business events.