That sentiment drew all sorts of fans Sunday, including gentlemen in sports coats and fedoras, women in cowboy boots, and guys in nylon windbreakers.

"It's really fun to people-watch," said Maya Grunauer, 20, of Hermosa Beach. She and her 15-year-old brother, Julian, had never been to the races before.

"We had to come here at least once," Julian said.

When the video board showed photographs from past years and highlights from memorable races, a wistful sort of applause echoed across the grounds.

Some fans had seen the end coming for years as the increasing popularity of Internet betting and simulcast wagering whittled average attendance to less than 4,000 last summer.

The high cost of workers' compensation in California had forced some horse owners to move elsewhere, and it had become tougher to assemble high-quality fields.

Not surprisingly, Hollywood Park had changed hands numerous times. Everett lost control to R.D. Hubbard in a 1991 proxy battle. Hubbard sold to Churchill Downs in 1999, which sold to Bay Meadows Land Co. six years later.

After voters passed a series of 2008 propositions that gave Indian tribes a stronger hold on gambling in the state, Bay Meadows proceeded with plans to redevelop.

"Do we need more shopping centers?" Jackson asked. "This place is slightly run-down, but I think it should be preserved."

Everyone who came through the gates Sunday received a special pin. There were testimonials and prize giveaways.

Tracks throughout Southern California, including Los Alamitos and Del Mar, will absorb Hollywood Park's racing dates. Many regulars said they would make the drive to Santa Anita Park, in Arcadia, more often.

But for Matzner, a 57-year-old from Lincoln Heights who has loved racing since he was a teenager, it won't feel the same.

"This place has always been special," he said.

Nearby, the bugler finished summoning the horses with his traditional song, then let loose with another tune: "Thanks for the Memory."

david.wharton@latimes.com

Twitter:@LATimesWharton