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Northfield to spend more than $4 million on racetrack improvements
Thursday, June 27, 2013 - by Tom LaMarra, USTA Web Newsroom Correspondent

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Columbus, OH --- Northfield Park plans to spend about $1.2 million to construct a new building on the backstretch that will provide services for horsemen, and about $3 million on improvements to the grandstand/clubhouse and barn area.

Meanwhile, construction of the Hard Rock Casino on the property of the Ohio racetrack remains on schedule with a planned opening in early or mid-December of this year.

Brock Milstein, chairman of Milstein Entertainment, told the Ohio State Racing Commission on Thursday (June 27) the new building in the barn area will house a dining hall with indoor and outdoor seating, a self-service wagering area, a tack shop, the racing office, and space for the Ohio Harness Horsemen’s Association, which currently uses a trailer on the grounds. Part of the 13,000-square-foot building will be used for maintenance supplies.

The existing building will be demolished.

“It’s much-needed and a big improvement to our backstretch facilities,” Milstein said. “We’re actually gaining square footage. The dining hall will be very similar to the operation we have now in the old building. It will be more like a grill-type facility for horsemen.”

Grandstand improvements include redesigned front entrances, a renovated north lobby area, and an upgrade of the mezzanine so it is more like the first-floor simulcast area, which was remodeled recently. In response to a question from racing commissioners about seating capacity, Milstein said the facility has about 5,500 seats.

“We have no intention of changing that,” he said. “For our operation, the facility lays out nicely.”

The “Rocksino,” as it’s called, is being built in the parking lot and will connect to the grandstand via a covered walkway. Milstein Entertainment, which partnered with Hard Rock Entertainment on the video lottery terminal facility, has a temporary gaming license but is awaiting final approval of its application.

The Rocksino will have 2,300 VLTs at the outset, along with restaurants and entertainment venues. Milstein said the construction budget is $255 million to $265 million.

On the racing side, Northfield will maintain its current number of stalls -- about 800. When asked about racing dates and purses when the VLTs begin operating, Milstein said management is taking a wait-and-see approach.

“My inclination and that of the Hard Rock folks is to race more, not less,” Milstein said.

Northfield was awarded 211 live racing dates this year and probably will request the same number in 2014, track officials said.

Overnight purses have been twice raised 10 percent this year in advance of VLTs, but there is an overpayment, said Tom Aldrich, vice president of Milstein Entertainment. The maximum non-stakes purse is $6,000 for an open event.

Aldrich said he’d like to see purses at Northfield eventually rival those at Scioto Downs Racino, which this week carded a $25,000 invitational pace. But Northfield races three or four times as many dates as other tracks in the state, so purse money will be spread out.

“We don’t want to raise the purses too fast so local horsemen get cut out of racing opportunities,” Milstein said. “Our top purse many not be the same as at a track that races 90 days, but there will be greater benefit at Northfield because of more opportunities to race.”

In the deal with Hard Rock, Milstein Entertainment retained 80 percent and will continue to run the harness racing operation. It is now the only racetrack in Ohio with a private majority owner.

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