The Nebraska HBPA has an agreement with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to vacate the existing track in July of 2012 and the simulcast facility in September of 2013 to make way for the improvements planned for Innovation Campus.
“The University has been very accommodating while we have pursued our options,” said Todd Veerhusen, president of the Nebraska HBPA. “They understand how important it is for us to transition seamlessly from our current site to a new site without losing revenue from our operation.”
The Nebraska HBPA has been evaluating potential sites and operational changes since the University of Nebraska took ownership of State Fair Park in January of 2010. One option would have legalized historic racing machines at racetracks in Nebraska and created a new revenue source for the horsemen. However, the bill that would allow those machines was vetoed by the Governor, and the vote to override fell one vote short. As a result, the Nebraska HBPA was forced to close and sell one of its five existing Nebraska racetracks, Atokad Downs in South Sioux City, in order to generate revenue to pursue the Lincoln project. With the sale of Atokad, Nebraska horse racing will be consolidated to four racetracks – Fonner Park in Grand Island, the Columbus track, Horsemen’s Park in Omaha, and the replacement facility in Lincoln.
“It was painful deciding to close Atokad and to let many long-term employees go. But that operation is suffering, and we need to make good business decisions with the resources we have. The board believes that replacing the Lincoln Race Course with a new, exciting facility is a better investment. Our plan to construct the project in phases will help assure its success,” Veerhusen said.
The relocated Lincoln Race Course facility will be located south of West Denton Road, on land previously part of a planned unit development proposed by the Dial Corporation. The original 300-acre P.U.D. anticipated a new Walmart, light commercial, and residential development. The developer completed roadway improvements and utilities infrastructure before Walmart backed out and the economy slumped.
“We have been looking for an exciting large tenant to help us kick off the development. The racetrack will create a great draw to the area, and the sports bar and simulcast facility will provide year-round entertainment,” said Rick Kiolbasa of Greenleaf Properties and representative of the Dial Companies.
The new horse racing facility will decrease the amount of commercial development in the area by over 50 acres, which will remain in agricultural land use.
“We’re delighted to find a location that has great access and existing infrastructure but still feels very agricultural,” Veerhusen said. “This part of the county already has many horse owners and equestrian riding facilities. We think horse racing will fit right in and be a great asset to the city in the future.”