Les Bois Park – Déjà vu All Over Again

If you haven’t already heard, this morning, the Board of Ada County Commissioners voted to reject both proposals we received from potential operators for Les Bois Park, the County-owned horse racing facility at the fairgrounds. Rumors and outright lies are flying about why we took this action. I would like to set the record straight:

• After doing a national search for a tenant/operator for Les Bois Park, the County received only two proposals. Spirit Valley Raceway offered Ada County a lease payment of $50,000 per year and Alabama-Idaho, Inc., also known as the Greene Group, Inc., offered $12,000 per year for the multimillion dollar facility. Under the prospective lease, our maintenance obligations, alone, are $25,000.

• The owner of Spirit Valley Raceway has a criminal history, has admitted to a violation of the Alcohol Beverage Control laws, and has no horse racing experience.

The Greene Group’s nonprofit corporation, the Greene Idaho Foundation has admitted to a violation of state law regarding their bingo operation in Post Falls, Idaho, and is still under investigation by the Idaho Lottery Commission. Until the group has been cleared of all legal violations, the County would be ill-advised to enter into a lease agreement for a similar kind of operation.

• If we wanted to do away with horse racing at Les Bois Park, the extensive RFP (Request for Proposals) process could have been avoided altogether. However, it was our intention to have horse racing at Les Bois Park this year.

In fact, in an effort to accommodate a racing season at the facility in the future, we are open to further negotiations in an effort to resolve the outstanding issues with the proposers, or for that matter, with any other party who might be interested in leasing the facility.

• We are not trying to do away with horse racing so that the fairgrounds can be redeveloped. We voted weeks ago to reject, on a long-term basis, all proposals to redevelop the fairgrounds because they are not financially feasible.

• Ada County has NOT given Capitol Racing permission to ‘take any equipment they want’ from the facilities at Les Bois Park. No such permission has been, or will be, given to Capitol.

• Although there is surely a local economic impact, horse racing at Les Bois Park is not worth millions of dollars to Ada County. The proposal submitted by the Greene Group would not have even covered the County’s annual maintenance costs.

• If we can get an operator in soon to continue horse racing, great. If not, then the County does not lose out. We can use the facilities or lease them out for alternative activities, such as an outdoor concert series, catering, etc., and generate more revenue than the amount of the highest bid we received.

Back in 2002, I spoke out against Lariat Productions taking over operation of Les Bois Park. No one listened. The horse owners claimed that Lariat would save horse racing in Idaho. Instead, things went wrong almost immediately. It took the County three years to evict Lariat, and the horse owners were out hundreds of thousands of dollars. I am thrilled, this time around, to be working with Commission colleagues who believe in doing our due diligence, and actually paying attention to the results.

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