Businesses and city crews have begun hanging banners and posters in storefronts to show their support for bringing a proposed racetrack and casino to Tucumcari.
“We want the town to come out and support racing in Tucumcari,” said Warren Frost, executive director of the Quay County Gaming Authority.
On Thursday the New Mexico Racing Commission will hold a public hearing at 5:30 p.m. at the Tucumcari Convention Center to hear investor plans and to listen to comments from the community.
Flyers have also been circulating inviting people to the “biggest Tailgate Party.” The tailgate party is being organized by Quay County elected officials and employees. “We are challenging every business owner, every governmental entity, every employer, every family to bring your employees and their families” to the parking lot at 4 p.m. on Thursday with their grills.
The Quay County Courthouse will be closed at 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. for the event, the flyer states.
The Quay County Gaming Authority launched an initiative almost two years ago to bring a track and casino to Tucumcari and helped to put together a group of investors, Coronado Partners, LLC. The majority owner is businessman and auto dealer Don Chalmers of Rio Rancho.
The proposed Coronado Park Race Track and Casino is an opportunity to bring jobs and economic development to Tucumcari. “We won’t have another chance like this,” Frost said.
Tucumcari is losing its population base and is dying on the vine, Frost said.
When Frost graduated from Tucumcari High School there were more than 100 in his graduating class, he said. “This year there were 37,” Frost said.
More than 8,000 postcards each with a signature supporting Coronado Park have been collected. Frost said. They are addressed to Gov. Bill Richardson and to the Racing Commission.
At the upcoming hearing, Frost said, he expected officials and residents from Clovis and surrounding towns to speak on behalf of the racino, as well as the locals.
When people arrive at the convention center, each person will be asked to sign in and check a box indicating if they would like to speak, for two minutes, before the commission.
“Anyone can speak. Those who are for it or those who are against it,” Frost said.
One person who is considering speaking against the casino is David P. McAfee, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church.
“These establishments benefit few at the expense of many,” McAfee said. “I just think it’s going to cause problems.”
McAfee, who is president of the Fellowship of Christian Pastors in Tucumcari, said that the pastors in the fellowship were against the racino. He said he had encouraged them to get signatures from their congregations.
The fellowship, however, has not taken an official vote, McAfee said.
McAfee said he objects to the race track and casino because they will offer gambling and alcoholic beverages.
“They attract people who fantasize about getting money quick. They prey on the weak who don’t the odds and the math,” McAfee said.
“I think our Economic Development Corp. could be more creative” in bringing in new business, McAfee said.
Some supporters of the racetrack and casino have suggested Coronado Park will bring more people into the church and provide pastors with larger groups of people to whom they can minister.
“That’s like pouring gasoline on the fire,” McAfee said.
Pastors currently have their hands full tending those who already active in their congregations, McAfee said.
And there are currently plenty of people in Tucumcari, who are not attending church, who could fill the pews, McAfee said.