By Ann Jantz, wyo4news.com
Sweetwater County, Wyoming — Horse racing has provided Sweetwater County and the State of Wyoming with revenues. Organizers now want the county to return the favor so that some of those racing revenues can be used for capital repairs to the facilities at Sweetwater Events Complex.
Wyoming Horse Racing President Eugene Joyce approached the Sweetwater County Commission Tuesday to report on the past, present, and, most importantly, the future of horse racing in Sweetwater County. He said the county and horse racing have had a “really successful public/private partnership,” and he hoped to continue that relationship to benefit both racing and the county.
With the addition of historic horse racing venues, the revenue stream to the county has increased over the years, Joyce noted. He asked the commissioners to consider earmarking some of that money back to Wyoming Horse Racing so that needed repairs could happen at the Events Complex facility.
“We need a facility that is up to industry norms,” Joyce said.
Capital projects would include building a bathroom and shower facility for the jockeys, repairing the grandstands, adding a wind break on the grounds, and upgrading the public restrooms. Joyce said the facility could additionally be utilized as a multi-purpose facility once the repairs occur.
Events Complex Executive Director Larry Lloyd said a dedicated revenue stream is needed for the upkeep to those facilities.
“It’s antiquated. It all needs upkeep and it all takes money,” he added. “The north part of the facility is dilapidated.”
Commission Chairman Wally Johnson said the commission has probably been negligent in earmarking some of those revenues back.
Lloyd noted none of these improvements are in the Events Complex’s three-year plan. He said they should be addressed separately, since it makes sense that a portion of off-track betting money be earmarked for this purpose.
Joyce suggested the earmarked money be figured as a percentage, making it fair for Sweetwater County, Rock Springs and Green River. Johnson agreed, saying Sweetwater County can earmark $400,000 immediately for repairs to the stands; in the meantime Joyce can approach Rock Springs to see what they would be willing to do. Johnson said they should wait with Green River and see what historic horse racing will generate there.
“I think it is a reasonable request,” Johnson said. “It has been popular with the people, and I think we need to support it. It keeps the money local.”
Lloyd pointed out that in the past, horse racing set up $3 million at the state, but that was lost when the state decided to earmark that money for something not even related to horse racing or support local economies.
“It was gone, just like that,” he said about local efforts to tap into that money for repairs.
Joyce was confident the capital repairs will result in the ability to expand the program. He said their purse structure has already captured the attention of horsemen throughout the industry; updated facilities will make horse racing in Sweetwater County even more attractive.