By Chelle Delaney: Quay County Sun
About 120 citizens turned out Monday evening to learn how they could help investors and the Quay County Gaming Authority make their case before the state’s Racing Commission.
Coronado Partners is the ownership team that wants to develop Coronado Race Track and Casino in Tucumcari.
Attendees signed up for banners to display on their businesses and posters to put in their storefronts.
Local veterinarian J.P. Corey, who had a rolled up poster in her arms, said she favored the proposal and the group’s efforts to let the Racing Commission know Tucumcari wanted the track and casino on Interstate 40.
“I’m 100 percent for it,” said Larry Young of Young Farms who raises race horses east of Tucumcari.
Young said he races his horses at all the other tracks in New Mexico and would like the opportunity to do so close to home, in Tucumcari.
“It’ll be a big boost for the city. I think it’s a good deal,” Young said.
The posters and banners are all part of letting the Racing Commission know that Tucumcari wants and needs the track and casino, said Warren Frost, executive director of the local gaming authority.
Vying for the only remaining license are Tucumcari, Raton and the Pojoaque Pueblo in Santa Fe.
Last week Frost attended Raton’s public hearing where about 400 people crowded into the Shuler Theater, and another 100 were outside listening to the proceedings via a speaker system.
“We can do as well or better (than Raton),” Frost said. “We will have 800 chairs set up and ready. We want to have 1,000 people. This is a big deal for Quay County and we want to have as many people as we can.”
Frost and supporters say Tucumcari’s proposed track and casino will draw its clientele from West Texas, especially Amarillo. It will also bring in out-of-state income and increase gross receipts tax throughout the county, supporters say.
Since most of Tucumcari’s audience will come from Texas, it will not affect any tribal gaming operations or proposed tracks further west on I-40, investors said in a press release.
Compared to Raton, Interstate 25 has only about a third of the travelers who traverse the state on Interstate 40, Frost said.
“Tucumcari is a fantastic New Mexico community, but it has faced some major economic challenges for decades,” said Pat Vanderpool, executive director of the Greater Tucumcari Economic Development Corp., in a press release.
“Coronado Park will bring much needed economic stimulus to the county and the state by bringing in revenue from outside New Mexico,” said Vanderpool in the release.
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 between Kmart and the Quality Inn. The partnership also has negotiated development agreements with the City of Tucumcari and Quay County. And the city, Quay County and the villages of Logan and San Jon would have very small ownership in the project.
A 2007 study by the University of New Mexico Bureau of Business and Economic Research indicates that Tucumcari and Quay County are in dire need of an economic driver for the region, according to the investment group’ release.
Tucumcari has experienced a decline in high-paying, economic base jobs recently, and average incomes in Tucumcari are about 15 percent below the state average, the release said.
In addition one in four people in Tucumcari live below the poverty line, well above the state rate of 18.4 percent, the release stated.
According to the 2000 Census, Tucumcari’s median family income was $22,560, considerably lower than in Santa Fe and Raton which are also vying for race tracks and casinos, where median family income in 1999 was $49,705 and $31,957, the release said.
The lead investor in Coronado Partners is Ford auto dealer Don Chalmers of Rio Rancho, who has said Coronado Park will provide 300 new jobs, increased gross receipts tax which will help pay for utility and public safety services, as well as higher property tax revenues and increased recreational opportunities for residents.
Among the jobs to be offered by Coronado Park are positions in management and administration, operations, security and surveillance, and food and beverage.
Coronado Partners also expects to team up with Mesalands Community College to develop workforce training and internships in racing and gaming, and to build on the college’s farrier science program.
The commission has the authority to grant Tucumcari the state’s only remaining racing license. That license became available when Gov. Bill Richardson negotiated a new gaming compact with the pueblos.
The Racing Commission will hold a public hearing at 5:30 p.m. July 24 at the Tucumcari Convention Center to hear investors plans for the proposed Coronado Race Track and Casino.