By Ryn Gargulinski: Freedom Newspapers
TUCUMCARI — Hooves could be flying in Tucumcari in the near future if a proposed racetrack gains state approval.
Greater Tucumcari Economic Development Corp. Director Pete Kampfer said the city and county have proclaimed their support, a confidential site has been chosen, a feasibility study complete, a business plan nearly done and private sector funds lined up and ready to roll for the $35 million project.
Specifically, the economic development outfit has been working since January with Ken Newton of Saddlebrook Park, LLC, in Santa Fe to get the proposal in order to present before the New Mexico Gaming Commission for licensing.
Kampfer said they will also need about 18 months to two years to build the massive facility which will also include slot gaming operation and a performance center for live entertainment and concerts. Construction aside, Kampfer said the venue will provide Tucumcari with an estimated 200 to 500 new jobs.
Kampfer said the idea and New Mexico’s horse racing industry has been well researched.
To pass New Mexico’s Gaming Control Board’s tough standards, the proposal must endure a rigorous licensing and certification process that includes an investigation from the board’s audit and law enforcement staff and a massive background check on the business and all individuals associated with it, state officials said.
The results are then reviewed to consider the applicant’s suitability to conduct gaming operations in New Mexico, officials said.
Before the proposal even goes to the Gaming Control Board, however, it has to obtain a racing license from New Mexico’s Racing Commission.
The state’s racing commissioner could not be reach Tuesday for comment.
Newton said he has discussed the racetrack’s plans with the Racing Commission but has yet to obtain a racing license. Newton also said he has spoken with the governor.
In April, Gov. Bill Richardson visited Tucumcari and told residents during a meeting he thought officials should look into bringing a racetrack and casino into the city due to its prime location between Texas and Oklahoma.
Linda Griggs, broker at Tucumcari’s New Beginnings Real Estate her professional opinion of having a race track in the Tucumcari area differs from her personal one.
“On the professional level, we need the influx of money in town; it would mean a boom in the market,” she said. “On a personal level, I really don’t want to see a racetrack and casino in town. I wish it were a different type of establishment, something with a more Christian standpoint.
“We already have welfare people in town and gambling is very addictive.”
Other townfolk were taken by surprise.
“This is the first time I knew about the racetrack,” said Alejandro Sena, assistant manager at Kentucky Fried Chicken. “I don’t think it will effect me. I think it would be great to have a racetrack and the kids would get a kick out of it.”