The internment of Japanese-Americans became US government policy following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Radio and newspapers circulated rumors that Japanese-Americans were spies and could pose a threat to the nation's security. In California, there was already animosity directed toward Japanese-American farmers who were often viewed as competition. Eventually more than 120,000 Japanese-Americans were detained with no due process or evidence of espionage.
The Fresno facility included more than 100 barracks in the center of the race track as well as four other blocks of twenty barracks each on either side of the track. Most of the inmates in the Fresno facility were sent to permanent camps in Arkansas and Arizona. The facility closed in October of 1942, the last temporary facility to do so.
A memorial to the site's role in Japanese-American internment was placed at the entrance to the fairgrounds in 1992. The memorial was enlarged and renovated in 2011.