By Lynne Snierson
The owners of Rockingham Park, which debuted as New England's first racetrack in 1906, are selling the majority of the stable area to a real estate developer.
"A purchase and sale agreement has been signed on 50 acres on the north end of Rockingham Park," said Ed Callahan, president and general manager of the Salem, New Hampshire track. "That area makes up about two-thirds of the current stable area. It is anticipated the closing on the agreement will occur in January of next year."
Rockingham, which last hosted a Thoroughbred meet in 2002 and a Standardbred meet in 2009, currently offers simulcasting on horse and dog races in addition to charitable gaming.
Millennium Gaming of Las Vegas holds the option to purchase the racetrack should the New Hampshire Legislature authorize expanded gambling and then it secure a casino license through a competitive bidding process.
Millennium co-owner and co-CEO William Wortman, who personally owns 20% of Rockingham Park, has maintained that the return of racing is part of the revitalization plans for the track.
"The sale of this land will not eliminate the potential for Thoroughbred racing in the future as the track itself is not impacted. In the event casino legislation were to pass and Rockingham awarded a license, live racing continues to be part of the casino proposal at Rockingham on the remaining 120 acres," Callahan said.
A new expanded gambling bill will be introduced in the Legislature in January. Although the State Senate has overwhelmingly passed similar bills in the past several years, the House of Representatives has killed every piece of casino legislation brought to the floor in modern times.