Columbus, OH --- The Ohio State Racing Commission and horsemen Jan. 10 expressed displeasure with the racing-related amenities and facilities planned for the new Miami Valley Gaming and Racing, which eventually will replace Lebanon Raceway.
The OSRC took testimony during a hearing on the matter, which also was addressed at a commission meeting in late November 2012. The OSRC earlier approved the relocation plan submitted by Churchill Downs Inc. and Delaware North Companies but reserved the right to revisit concerns over the partners’ plans for harness racing at the new facility.
The commission and horsemen questioned the size of the proposed grandstand and related customer services; an insufficient number of stalls in the receiving barn and the overall lack of a stable area; and plans to install a five-eighths-mile track rather than a seven-eighths-mile track.
Steve McCoy, president of the Ohio Harness Horsemen’s Association, said the group fully supports the move from the Warren County Fairgrounds to a new racetrack gaming facility to be built about seven miles west. He noted, however, that any relocated racetrack should have least the same accommodations as the existing facility.
Lebanon Raceway has a barn area and a half-mile track. The grandstand has plenty of seating but no dining room.
“When we talk about the relocation of a Thoroughbred track, there is never any discussion about whether it will have a barn area,” McCoy said. “The harness horsemen are being asked to be second-class citizens here.
McCoy also said plans by Miami Valley to have a grandstand with seating for only 700 patrons on the racing side are “way, way inadequate. We hope it’s a grandstand with seating for thousands, not hundreds. It makes no sense to have physical facilities that could be a limiting factor to the growth of harness racing in Ohio.”
CDI and Delaware North officials said the project will cost about $105 million and contended the planned racing facilities are adequate given current business at Lebanon Raceway. Horsemen suggested racing is being slighted to save money.
“There always cost considerations creating a new facility,” said Ron Sultemeier, director of new property planning and projects for Delaware North. “We hold no apologies for what we designed. Any changes would greatly delay the project.”
Sultemeier noted several barns at the Warren County Fairgrounds would continue to be used for Standardbreds that could ship to Miami Valley.
Shawn Bailey, vice president of business development for CDI, said there isn’t room on the property for a barn area. He also said the partners opted not to purchase another 20 acres to accommodate a larger track circumference.
“We’ve done the best we can to maximize use of space,” Bailey said.
How much power the OSRC has in mandating a barn area and larger track remains to be seen, but clearly regulators don’t believe the Miami Valley project, racing-wise, measures up to the spirit of having racetrack video lottery terminals.
“We want to move forward, not backward,” OSRC chairman Robert Schmitz said. “If you have a crowd of 5,000, where are you going to put them? You cannot base (the project) on the past. That dog won’t hop with me.”
Schmitz and other commissioners noted seating for 700 people is actually less than some grandstands on the Ohio county fair circuit have. Schmitz asked CDI and Delaware North officials to meet with the OHHA to further explore horsemen’s concerns.