By Chelle Delaney: Quay County Sun
Tuesday’s audience was eager and receptive. All the odds were in the presenters’ favor.
But the stakes are getting higher as an investor group, Coronado Partners, LCC, seeks to win the last available license from the state’s Racing Commission to operate a racetrack and casino in Tucumcari.
Investors and planners in a proposed race track and casino presented the visuals, which will also be part of the application, to more than 100 residents and city and county officials.
The “racino” has been dubbed Coronado Park Race Track & Casino. It’s a name taken from the Coronado Trail and pays homage to the area’s Spanish heritage and its majority stakeholder, the partnership headed up by auto dealer and Albuquerque businessman, Don Chalmers.
City Commissioner Robert Lumpkin was impressed with the project and said the area has a lot to offer the racino project, with heavy traffic from U.S. Highway 54 and Interstate 40 and local projects such as Ute Lake Ranch and recreational activities at Ute Lake.
“But we need to stay vigilant. We need to keep our efforts high,” Lumpkin said. “This will be a great, great addition to Tucumcari. It’s something we’ve always needed.”
“It’s maybe the most important thing that has happened in our community. Maybe the most important thing that has happened in decades,” said Warren Frost, executive director of the Quay County Gaming Authority, which has fostered the racino proposal.
“We need to support it all we can,” said Patrick Vanderpool, executive director of the Greater Tucumcari Economic Development Corp.
Economically, the racino is hoped to be a catalyst for Tucumcari and Quay County, bringing with it a start-up payroll for 300 employees, demand for supportive services and tourists and gamblers.
The development of Coronado Park has been estimate
d to cost about $30 million.
The group plans to have its applications and plans into the state’s Racing Commission by the end of the month or early April, said Adriana Badal of the Butch Maki firm.
Butch Maki is a Sante Fe lobbying group hired by the Tucumcari’s economic development agency to advocate for projects in the area.
Based on conversations with officials of the state’s Racing Commission, the commission would like to have one of its meetings in Tucumcari, where the proposed Coronado Park would be presented, Badal said.
That meeting could possibly occur sometime in the fall, she said.
In the meantime, Frost is working to get option agreements signed by each of the four stakeholders in the gaming authority, Tucumcari, Quay County, Logan and San Jon, that will give Coronado Partners a greater share of ownership in the casino project.
In addition, Frost is working to get development agreements between Coronado Partners and the city of Tucumcari and Quay County to provide for, among other things, right-of-ways and utilities that would be necessary for the racino’s development. The investors are expected to pay for improvements, but there are certain clearances needed from the city and county to pave the way for improvements, Frost said.
A member of the audience asked about sufficient utilities, water and sewer, for the proposed park. Frost said that the utilities were in place because they had been built to service the hotels along that section of the Route 66.
Coronado Park is envisioned as a tri-level facility, the lower level for the casino, the mid-level for the clubhouse and Turf Club, and a smaller upper level for an announcers’ box and media.
It will take about a year to build the park, said Pat Crofts of the Navegante Group, which is the group’s casino specialist.
The park also features a one-mile track and amenities for horsemen.
It’s estimated that there are some 87,000 quarter horses in the counties between Amarillo and Quay County, with 10,000 of those being running horses, said David Vance of Oklahoma City, Okla., an investor who has helped develop and manage racing tracks.
Racing would be featured mid-April through June and have 44 live days at Coronado Park.
During its off season, other races in the country would be simulcast for wagering.
The racino is expected to draw heavily from the Amarillo area and motorists traveling on U.S. Highway 54 and I-40.
While an application has been filed to move an existing casino Albuquerque Downs from the State Fairgrounds to Moriarty on I-40, it is not expected to affect the planned Coronado Park because it is 135 miles away, Frost said.
Other applicants are are also pursuing the sixth and last racino license that was approved in the tribal gaming pacts.
The Pajoaque Pueblo has applied to to reopen Santa Fe Downs and a group has applied for a track at Raton.