Saturday, October 04, 2008
Has the sun set on Hialeah Park?
A glimmer of optimism in this game seldom survives inevitable disappointment, so it is not surprising to learn this week that John Brunetti has rebuffed an offer from Internet entrepreneur Halsey Minor, perhaps the only person on the planet with the resources and desire to reanimate the cadaver that is the once-elegant Hialeah Park. Then again, irrational behavior is not new to John Brunetti.
Life and business present few real second chances and Minor’s emergence handed Brunetti a rare opportunity. No one who came to know Hialeah, even in its decline, was not hopeful that Minor’s effort at resuscitation would be successful, but those who know Brunetti were at best skeptical and more often dismissive. “Brunetti,” many said, “will never sell Hialeah Park.”
Apparently, Brunetti still answers a voice heard by no one else, is content to permit the rotting of Hialeah in the subtropical sun to continue unabated, a grotesque memorial to his stewardship and intransigence. There is nothing to be gained by not selling Hialeah Park to someone dedicated to its restoration and financially capable of bringing what is now almost inconceivable to fruition.
According to reports, Brunetti’s asking price was much higher than Minor anticipated. There is no guarantee that there will be a second offer from either party, there is no one in line behind Minor waiting to offer a better deal and the moribund property is not open for development given its place on the national registry of historical places. So, how does this make sense?
Hialeah has a future only if Brunetti agrees to life support and his reluctant position – evidence that he has not mellowed with age -- is a huge disappointment. Brunetti has nothing to lose. He once saw himself as the savior of Hialeah, there when no one else was willing. Now, he has a real chance to save Hialeah but only by letting go – by doing the right thing for the place he claims to cherish. Racing in Florida and the nation has much to gain but the disconnect between Brunetti’s thought process and the reality at hand is probably beyond repair.
As long as there is dialogue between Minor and Brunetti there is hope for a beneficial outcome, but those who believe that the long-time owner of Hialeah, which in fact is ownership nowadays of little more than a widely shared memory and a starring role in the death of one of the nation’s most gracious, elegant racetracks, will never agree terms of sale are, sadly, probably right. --PM
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