Put out to pasture

Storied Manor Downs racetrack and music venue will play new tune as industrial park

Manor Downs racetrack and venue will play new tune as industrial park

Manor Downs
An industrial park will sprout up on the property of the famed racetrack and venue.  Manor Downs/Facebook

A site east of Austin where horses once raced and the Grateful Dead once jammed is being transformed into an industrial park.

Dallas-based Dalfen Industrial LLC says it purchased the 146-acre site, just west of Manor, to construct a six-building industrial park with more than 1 million square feet of warehouse space.

The purchase price wasn’t available. The name of the seller also wasn’t available. Travis County tax records list Carr Manor Downs Ltd. as the most recent owner.

Dalfen executives say construction is set to start in the second quarter of 2022 and be completed in the second quarter of 2023. A price tag for the project wasn’t disclosed.

The site, near State Highway 130 and U.S. Highway 290 East, once was home to the Manor Downs horse-racing track. The track closed in 2010 after the popularity of horse racing declined. Manor Downs opened in 1975. Fans initially were unable to bet on races, but Manor Downs eventually introduced legalized wagering.

Perhaps the most famous gambler to ever place a bet at Manor Downs was Rolling Stones legend Mick Jagger. According to the Austin Chronicle, Jagger “played the ponies” there when owner Frances Carr was dating former Rolling Stones road manager Sam Cutler. Carr and Cutler developed Manor Downs.

Central Texans might remember Manor Downs more as a concert venue than a horse-racing track, though. Most notably, the Grateful Dead performed there in 1977, 1981, 1982, 1983, and 1985, according to the Austin Chronicle.

Manor Downs also hosted the 18.5-hour Farm Aid II concert, held on the Fourth of July in 1986. Performers included Willie Nelson, Alabama, the Beach Boys, Jon Bon Jovi, John Mellencamp, and Bonnie Raitt.

Another musical note related to Manor Downs: Chesley Millikin, who once was general manager of the racetrack, is credited with discovering Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Chronicle says. A statue of the acclaimed blues guitarist prominently graces the south shore of Lady Bird Lake.

Manor Downs also served as a movie set. Much of the 1980 flop Roadie — whose cast included musicians Meatloaf, Debbie Harry, Roy Orbison, Hank Williams Jr., and Roy Orbison — was shot there.