Racing News

FORMER GM KING REMEMBERED AS TRAILBLAZER

by Mike Henry

Lorraine M. King, whose appointment as General Manager in 1986 made Tampa Bay Downs the first racetrack to be owned and run by women, died Tuesday in Palm Harbor, Fla.
King was promoted soon after current track owner and President-Treasurer Stella F. Thayer and her brother, Vice President-Secretary Howell Ferguson, purchased full ownership of the track at auction shortly before the start of the 1986-1987 meeting.
King was at the helm in 1990 when Tampa Bay Downs became the first track in Florida to accept a simulcast signal, from Calder Race Course (now Gulfstream Park West). The move enabled Tampa Bay Downs to remain open on a year-round basis and fueled the growth of the track’s current stakes program, which includes two Grade II stakes and four Grade III events.
A native of Hartford, Conn., and a former horse owner, King started at Tampa Bay Downs (then Florida Downs) in 1970 as Office Manager.
King was promoted to Vice President and Administrative Assistant in 1974 by then-track president Sam F. Davis. In that capacity, she performed many of the duties of General Manager, including the hiring of a then-obscure announcer from Cahokia Downs named Tom Durkin to take over the Oldsmar race-calling duties.
King left the track for a short time after getting married in 1979. At the request of Thayer, then an ownership partner, she returned to Tampa Bay Downs as Controller in 1981. King held that position for five years before being named General Manager.
Prior to that, she was instrumental in the hiring of the track’s current announcer, Richard Grunder.
Under King’s stewardship, Tampa Bay Downs introduced Sunday racing, which was an immediate hit with the 5,893 fans who attended the first Sunday card in December of 1986. The Florida Legislature permitted children to attend the races two years later, another change heartily embraced by King.
A visible presence throughout the facility during her five years as General Manager, King always had time to welcome a suggestion or commiserate with bettors who had lost a tough photo finish. She instituted the track’s popular “Also-Ran” contest, in which any fan picking a horse that finished out of the money in a race won a season pass.
“This is for people who say they never win at the track,” she said at the time.
King was promoted to Vice President of Administration at the outset of the 1991-1992 meeting, with Stephen Baker assuming the General Manager position. She served in that role for the next 20 seasons.
Her husband, Edward T. King, preceded her in death in 1984.
King is survived by her daughter, Ellen Marie Standtke and her husband, Ed, of Palm Harbor; her son, Keith Kolakowski and his wife, Lisa, of Plant City, Fla.; daughter-in-law Sandra Kolakowski of Atlanta, Ga.; sister Ellie Maddock and her husband, Jack, of Dunedin, Fla.; brother Norm Mathieu and his wife, Kim, of Bloomfield, Conn.; three granddaughters, Lauren, Krysta and Erika; and two great-grandchildren.
Gregory Kolakowski, her eldest son, died in April.
Remembrance donations can be made to Suncoast Hospice, 5771 Roosevelt Blvd., #300, Clearwater, FL 33760, or the Suncoast Animal League, 1020 Pennsylvania Ave., Palm Harbor, FL 34683.
A memorial service will be held at a later date.