Proposed racino will bring new money to state, supporters say

By QCS Staff

Don Chalmers of Coronado Partners, LLC announced Monday that an application had been filed Friday with the New Mexico Racing Commission and the New Mexico Gaming Control Board to develop and operate Coronado Park race track and casino in Tucumcari, according to press release.

“I am very excited to bring this project to Quay County,” said Chalmers in the release “It will provide local economic benefits, and be very good for the state. Certainly this area needs investment and jobs, and we think that this project, more than any other will enhance racing in the State and not interfere with the success of the tribal gaming industry nor the fate of the State Fair.”

The Coronado project, which has been estimated to cost between $30 and $40 million, is in competition with other applications. These are, according to news reports and Warren Frost, executive director of the Quay County Gaming Authority:
l Horse Racing at Raton
l Pojoaque Pueblo which owns the Downs at Santa Fe
l Downs of Albuquerque, whose operator Paul Blanchard wants to move to Moriarty.

Local residents says they are optimistic that Coronado Park will land the last license that was OKed as a part of a gaming compact agreement.
“I really feel like we have a chance,” said Carole Keith, president of the Tucumcari/Quay County Chamber of Commerce. “I think a lot is in our favor. It’s not going to take money out of the state, it’s going to bring in money from Texas.”

Franklin McCasland, chairman of the Quay County Gaming Authority, also said, “I think our chances are real good.

“The governor has said that he wants to bring in money from out of state. It will bring in money from out of state. The casinos and Albuquerque won’t be trading New Mexico gambling money with each other.

In recent weeks, three to four callers a day ask about the racino, said Dianne Paris, executive director of the chamber.

The calls come from Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma and even wider distances, Paris said.

They want to come to the racino to gamble or they’re are looking for prospects in Tucumcari, said Gail Sanders, a chamber official.
“The word is out. I even talked to someone from Wisconsin,” Sanders said. “They call asking about property, too.”

Keith said the racino will help the city’s employment and housing in Tucumcari. According to the 2000 Census, 19.1 percent of Tucumcari’s population lives below the poverty level, and Tucumcari’s median family income was $22,560 – considerably lower than in Santa Fe, Raton and Moriarty, communities also vying for race tracks and casinos, where median family income in 1999 was $49,705, $31,957 and $31,762 respectively, the Coronado Park release stated.

Coronado Partners has acquired options on 245 acres to build the one-mile race track and 600-slot casino within Tucumcari city limits on Route 66 at I-40 and Tucumcari Boulevard. The site is 165 miles east of Albuquerque and will not compete with Indian casinos in the Albuquerque area or west thereof. In addition, at 105 miles from Amarillo, Coronado Park expects to generate the majority of its patrons from West Texas and from pass-through traffic and tourists along 1-40, the release said.

The annual traffic on I-40 was 4,877,495 vehicles in the Tucumcari area, according to 2007 traffic studies by the state’s Department of Transportation. The daily annual average for traffic was 13,363 vehicles.

In addition, “Approximately 250,000 people visit Ute Lake each year for boating, camping and fishing,” said Pat Vanderpool, executive director of the Greater Tucumcari Economic Development Corporation, in the release. “But what the area needs is a source of permanent, non-seasonal employment. We think that this project provides us this unique opportunity.”

Debbie Lafferty, past president of the Tucumcari/QuayCounty Chamber, said the racino will help to make Tucumcari a destination.
“People come for the entertainment and the shows,” not just to gamble, Lafferty said.

Investors have said Coronado Park will employ 300 full-time employees in management and administration, operations, security and surveillance, and food and beverage.

The racino does, however, have some detractors who are not advocates of gambling.

People who gamble are gambling now and will continue to find ways to wager, whether its on the Internet or through other gaming activities, Keith said.

In addition, Coronado Partners said it will team with Tucumcari’s Mesalands Community College to develop workforce training and internships in racing and gaming.

The horsemen, also have expressed an interest in Mesalands existing associate degree program in farrier science, which combines practical experience in horsemanship with classroom instruction in anatomy and physiology, will provide a steady supply of trained employees, the release said.

The site’s location within city limits means that all utilities and ancillary infrastructure is now available. Tucumcari also recently completed a $2 million expansion of its municipal airport, the release said.

Several weeks prior to filing, Coronado Partners negotiated development agreements with the city of Tucumcari and Quay County, and the villages of Logan and San Jon. The four municipalities each have an small ownership stake in the property. Tucumcari and Quay County each have a 1.5 percent stake, and the villages of Logan and San Jon, each have 1 percent.