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May 7, 2014

Austintown racing complex anticipates fall opening

NEW CASTLE — Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course will open in the fall.

No specific date has been set, but work is progressing on several fronts on 186 acres in Austintown, Ohio. The site — less than 30 miles from New Castle — is accessible from Ohio Routes 46 and 11 and Interstate 80.

Located off North Canfield-Niles Road, it will ultimately have the address 777 Hollywood Drive, according to general manager Mike Galle.

The thoroughbred racetrack is being relocated from Columbus, Ohio, by Penn National Gaming, which will operate Lawrence Downs Casino and Racing Resort in Mahoning Township if that project gets the green light for a casino license from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. The board will conduct a hearing at 10 a.m. tomorrow at the Community Center in Mahoning Township.

The proposed local racetrack/casino will be constructed by the partnership of Endeka Entertainment and Penn National on about 250 acres of reclaimed strip mined land on Route 422. Both the planned local venue and the Austintown project are expected to cost about $125 million to build.

In Ohio, Galle is overseeing construction of a 100,000-square-foot grandstand-gaming-restaurant complex, barns that will accommodate more than 900 horses and a mile-long racetrack.

Turner Construction began in April 2013 to clear and grade land. Construction began last June.

Galle envisions a completed project with three dining venues and 850 video lottery terminals, similar to slot machines. Space is available to expand to 1,500 units. The ground floor also will have a bar and entertainment lounge.

The “cage,” a secure area where patrons may place bets and receive payouts, also will be downstairs. Behind that area are the security and surveillance centers.

The upper level will include a sports bar, grandstand and simulcast theater, which will bring patrons televised live races from around the country 365 days a year.

The facility will include 1,001 inside seats facing the racetrack.

“We’ll have some outside seating,” Galle said. “But most will be inside because we’ll have winter racing here.”

In time, he continued, the facility will offer 100 days of racing. However, this year, the season will begin Nov. 24, and 21 days of racing must be held before the season closes Dec. 30.

“The season could start right up again in January. We won’t know the 2015 racing dates until later this year,” Penn National spokesman Bob Tenenbaum said. “Another winter like the last one could affect the schedule, which is posted on the website racingohio.gov.”

Ohio maintains a winter racing schedule but staggers races so neighboring racetracks don’t compete with each other. The Mahoning track, he said, will not compete with racing at Thistledown, the thoroughbred racetrack outside Cleveland.

The Mahoning racing schedule, Tenenbaum said, can be found on the website after clicking the Live Racing Date prompt.

“But you might have to look at the Beulah Park schedule. The site may not have been updated.”

Galle said the concrete gaming floor is poured over a cellular floor that will simplify moving and adding video lottery terminals.

He declined to comment when asked if the floors also could accommodate gaming tables like those in Pennsylvania casinos and the four Ohio casinos in Cleveland, Toledo, Columbus and Cincinnati.

The facility is also in the process of developing an on-site water system.

“We considered all options and found it more economical for us to construct our own,” Galle said.

Water from several wells on the property is filtered, pumped to a newly-constructed tower then disbursed as needed.

Galle noted about 1,000 jobs were created in building the facility.

He said he is assembling a seven-member management team to recruit and train staff. He anticipates about 1,000 people — a combination of full-time and part-time and subcontractors — will work at the facility when it becomes fully operational.

(Email: nlowry@ncnewsonline.com)

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