Proposed horse track closer

Another hurdle was cleared in Keeneland’s effort to build a $50 million quarter horse racing track and “historical wagering” gambling parlor in Corbin Tuesday when the sale of more than 145 acres of property off of the Corbin bypass was finalized.

Corbin Economic Development Director Bruce Carpenter said Willow Creek Farms, LLC, which had taken out multiple options for future purchase of the property between Allison and Buchanan Blvd., paid $432,774 to purchase the property.

“The next step in moving forward with the project was closing on the property,” Carpenter said. “I’m very excited that we have gotten to this point.”

Carpenter said previously that Willow Creek was to buy the property and, in turn, sell it to Keeneland.

The Tri-County Joint Industrial Development Authority had been taking steps to prepare the property for closing in recent weeks.

On Oct. 17, The Corbin Planning and Zoning Commission voted to recommend to the Corbin City Commission that the property be rezoned from industrial to public use.

At a special called meeting of the joint industrial development authority held Monday, the commissioners approved a motion authorizing Chairman Nick Greiwe to sign any and all documents pertaining to the execution of Willow Creek Farms’ option on the property.

The largest hurdle on the project continues to be the necessary thoroughbred-racing license.

Vince Gabbert, vice president and chief operating officer of Keeneland, said earlier this month that the application has been submitted and it is a matter of waiting for the racing commission to act upon it.

“As soon as we have that in hand, we will be ready to move forward,” Gabbert said.

Hours after Keeneland and Churchill Downs officials announced in September that they would join forces to construct two new horse racing facilities in the state, including the one in Corbin, officials with the racing commission announced they had no plans to consider any new racing licenses.

“Over the last several months, we have informed Kentucky’s race tracks that we would not consider any applications for new race track facilities in Kentucky. Despite that communication, Churchill and Keeneland have chosen to submit an application for new race track facilities,” the statement said. “At this time, neither of us have any plans to take any action related to this application or any other application for a new race track facility. It is our hope that in the future we will be able to develop a process and criteria to determine whether any new race track facilities are needed in the Commonwealth.”

The commission meets bi-monthly with the next meeting scheduled for December.

However, the commission may call a special meeting if needed.

According to the commission website, no such meeting is currently scheduled.

Plans for the facility, originally named, “Thunder Gap,” and now to be known as, “Cumberland Run,” were announced in 2014. The facility was originally slated to open in September 2016.

Cumberland Run will include a 1,723-foot straight racing track, along with barn facilities an entertainment center and grandstand. In addition, the property has six out parcels for commercial development and property allocated for a hotel/motel facility.

Quarter horse racing is different from thoroughbred or harness racing in that it is often considered the “drag racing” of equine sports. Quarter horse tracks are straight with no turns. Track design dictates how many horses can race, with eight to 10 horses in a typical field. Races are usually 350 to 440 yards in length and the horses cover the distance in a scant 17 to 21 seconds.

The first phase of the project is expected to cost about $30 million. It will create an estimated 150 permanent jobs and 2,000 indirect jobs, and generate approximately $10 million in local and state tax revenue.

The track is expected to have 10 to 15 live racing dates a year, but will offer year-round simulcasting and access to instant racing machines which, allow betters to wager on simulated races based on real historical race data.