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The Fair Grounds is the only racetrack in the Deep South that was in operation before the Civil War and continued successful operation after the war. In 1852, the Union Race Course, the track's original name, was built on approximately 400 acres of land, changing the flavor of the swampy, agricultural area. By the beginning of the Civil War in 1861, New Orleans had become the "heart of American racing." During the war, various promoters leased the course and different games, such as boxing, baseball, bull and bear fights.