Ellis Park will undergo major renovations, widen turf course

Ellis Park will undergo major renovations, widen turf course
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
Ellis Park’s turf course will be widened by 20 feet as part of a $14.2 million renovation to the property, representatives for the track announced during a meeting of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on Tuesday.

Tim Perkins, COO of Laguna Development Corp., which owns Ellis Park, provided slides at the meeting of what the finished project could look like. The turf-widening portion of the renovations was estimated to cost $3.25 million and will include a new tote board system and a four-acre pond for irrigation.

Perkins spoke of the project as part of Laguna’s larger efforts to rehabilitate Ellis.

“Ellis has a perception of being a run down, neglected racetrack,” Perkins said. “So we kind of took our marketing efforts slow. The efforts were rolled out slowly and we wanted to reintroduce Ellis in a new and more updated fashion.”

Commissioner Mark Simendinger questioned what impact the turf expansion would have on grass racing next season at Ellis Park. He also asked for a timetable on the track’s ongoing installation of a new lights system that would allow for night racing

“The turf expansion will not interfere with our existing turf course,” Ellis Park general manager Jeff Inman said. “So we will continue turf operations during the 2022 season. Our initial projections for the track lighting completing, our initial projections are for the 2023 season.”

Along with other improvements to Ellis Park, the track's representatives announced plans for Ellis Park Owensboro, a historical horse racing facility. The project will be licensed as a satellite facility and cost an estimated $16.7 million.

Ellis Park Owensboro will include 600 HHR terminals when it opens, with the ability to expand to 800-900 terminals. Inman estimated it to be a 12-month construction project.

Laguna acquired Ellis Park in 2019 and promised to spend millions of dollars to renovate the facility. Perkins claimed the company remains committed to the track, despite setbacks from the COVID pandemic and a legal challenge to HHR in Kentucky.

“Since that acquisition, we’ve been busy making numerous maintenance and cleanup projects around the facility in an effort to bring this 100-year-old racetrack up to a satisfactory operating level," Perkins said.

According to the presentation, those improvement include a dirt track resurfacing, repaired barn walls, removal of old barns and an improved water system.

In addition to the Ellis Park expansion presentation, the KHRC also approved race dates for 2022, which featured several changes, including a seventh day of racing for Kentucky Downs and a Friday-through-Sunday schedule with optional Thursdays for winter at Turfway Park.

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