July 23, 2014

Horse racing might soon return to Lincoln, at the expense of Atokad

The horses might run again in Lincoln.

The Nebraska Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association has announced it will develop a site in southwest Lincoln for a new racetrack. Association Vice President Gene McCloud says the association will sell the existing Atokad Downs in South Sioux City in order to generate money to pay for the new facility in Lincoln.

“We felt that the Lincoln market was probably a more viable market than the Atokad market, just from a population standpoint and, also, a competition standpoint,” Nebraska Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association Vice President Gene McCloud told Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN.

The new track would replace the existing Lincoln Racecourse facility on the Nebraska Innovation Campus, the old state fairgrounds racetrack. McCloud says the racetrack will be developed over several years, starting with a simulcast facility in late summer of next year. The association plans to use revenue from its operation to build a grandstand, a one-mile track and barns for as many as 1,000 horses.

The association has reached agreement with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to vacate the existing track this summer and the simulcast facility next fall so the university can begin improvements to the Innovation Campus. Association officials say they have been evaluating potential sites since the University of Nebraska took ownership of State Fair Park in January 2010.

In a news release, the association said it had hoped the legislature would legalize betting on historic horse racing, but when an override attempt fell one vote short, the association was forced to sell an existing race track to generate the money needed to build a new rack track in Lincoln. The move will leave Nebraska with four racetracks: Fonner Park in Grand Island, the Columbus Track, Horsemen’s Park in Omaha, and the replacement facility in Lincoln.

The new Lincoln racetrack will be located on land previously intended as a development by the Dial Corporation. That 300-acre development fell through when the economy turned sour and the main tenant, Walmart, backed out.

Jane Monnich, KLIN, contributed to this story.