AUSTINTOWN - An application to license a thoroughbred racetrack in Austintown will not be considered by the Ohio State Racing Commission until at least March, but racetrack officials say that won't delay work at the site.
State Race Commission Chairman Robert Schmitz said Wednesday that the issue will not come before the board at today's meeting in Columbus because a rule change governing the race commission's fee to transfer a license first must be approved by the board and then by the state Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review in Columbus.
''I think they are queued up and ready to go,'' Schmitz said Wednesday when asked if he believes an application by Penn National Gaming Inc. to relocate the track will be viewed favorably by the commission. Still, the steps outlining the process of transferring the license must first be set. The proposed rule change includes establishing a $75 million transfer fee.
Penn National applied in June with the racing commission to relocate its license from Beulah Park in Columbus to a 184-acre site in Mahoning County. That came after the company agreed to a nonbinding memorandum of understanding with Ohio Gov. John Kasich's office to pay, over time, a $75 million fee to relocate the track in question, plus another one in Ohio, and then another $50 million fee for each track for planned lottery terminal licenses.
''We are doing the preliminary site work, and we will continue to do that. This has no impact on that,'' Penn National spokesman Bob Tenenbaum said Wednesday. ''We understand this is a process that this has to go through, but we do want to be sure that people recognize that it is moving forward and we are totally committed to this project.''
Preliminary site work began in Austintown's Centerpointe Business Park, located off state Route 46, in mid-December. Construction of the planned $125 million facility is expected to last 14 to 18 months. Opening has been projected for 2014.
Penn National plans a community outreach event to provide bidding information to local contractors. Project construction manager Turner Construction Co. and the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber will host the event from 4 to 6 p.m. Jan. 17 at Ciminero's Banquet Centre, Niles. Companies interested should RSVP to Leslie Malov at 216-522-1180 or email@example.com.
Heavy equipment remains lined up at the site of the proposed Hollywood Slots at Mahoning Valley Race Course. The company had finalized a $4.65 million purchase of acreage in April. Crews from Independence Excavating are under contract to have the site prepared within 60 days. Site work under way is to include erosion and sediment control, construction of a temporary access road and sediment ponds along with tree and top soil removal.
Also pending with the Ohio Lottery Commission is Penn National's application for video slot terminals at the property. Tenenbaum said Penn National is confident there will be no problem with that process. State lottery officials have said the the process is timely given the number of pending applications. They gave no indication of a timeline for approval.