Former Racetrack Opens to Offer Mass Coronavirus Vaccinations in Maine

Scarborough Downs, a horseracing track that closed in November, is now open for coronavirus vaccinations

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With the eventual capacity to vaccinate up to 2,000 people per day for coronavirus, the mass vaccine clinic at Maine's former Scarborough Downs horseracing track opened Wednesday.

The facility is a collaboration between Crossroad Holdings, a development group turning the land the track sits on into a mixed-used site, and MaineHealth, the regional health care organization that operates Maine Medical Center in Portland.

After a short ribbon-cutting ceremony, Alice and Robin Goshorn became the first of tens of thousands of people to receive vaccines in the building that once housed the track's grandstands.

"I'm very thankful, but I'm also sensitive to how many people are waiting," Alice Goshorn said in an interview moments after receiving her first dose of vaccine.

Fifteen days prior to Wednesday's opening, the grandstands were in the unrenovated state they had been left in following the closure of the horse track last November.

Peter Michaud, one of the partners of Crossroad Holdings, said he committed 100 people to work 12- to 14-hour shifts each of those days until work requested by MaineHealth was completed.

"There have been a lot of changes," said Michaud, explaining how the old grandstands were prepared for their new life. "You've got all new HVAC systems, filtration systems and about 10 to 12 miles of cable run here for communication purposes."

The area below the grandstands is one of the few indoor spaces in southern Maine that's large enough for a number of patients to move safely from check-in to vaccination to observation for reaction to the shots.

Evidence of the building's old life is still visible, with information desks set up in areas once used to place bets or buy ice cream.

Between the new HVAC systems hang signs that, for decades, displayed odds for horses.

"I'm pretty impressed with what they did in a very short period of time," said Alice Goshorn, who explained she's driven past the entrance to the former track since the 1960s. "I had no idea I'd ever be in Scarborough Downs getting a vaccination during a pandemic."

To start, MaineHealth says it plans to vaccinate as many people at the site as it has a supply of shots for.

On Wednesday, that number was 114 people following the Goshorns.

The clinic will operate 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, but those days and hours may expand if the amount of vaccine the organization has on hand increases.

As for the Goshorns, they plan to stick to the social distancing and mask-wearing routines they've developed during the pandemic. But they are hoping their vaccinations get them closer to a second visit with their first grandchild, who is nine months old and lives in Chicago.

"I think the vaccination makes us feel more optimistic about going to see him," said Robin Goshorn.

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