Woodlands to Shut Down in August

Woodlands to Shut Down in August
The Woodlands in Kansas City, Kan., will shut down on Aug. 24 after determining that a 60%  tax rate would make installing slot machines unprofitable.

"It just got down to the tax rate was so high that ownership thought it would not work," Woodlands general manager Jayme LaRocca said.

The track announced its decision late in the afternoon on July 22. Trainers at Prairie Meadows that were planning to go to the Woodlands in September said they were stunned.

"I'm shellshocked," said trainer Jeff Rutland, a Kansas resident. "I don't know how to put it. It's your home state of racing, where you try to breed and raise horses. We've been holding on for so long, and now they shut the door on us. We don't understand the logistics of why they're doing it now."

Kansas law calls for 40% of slot revenue to go to the state and 20% to other entities. The track would receive 25%, of which 7% would  go to horse purses and 7% to greyhound purses.

The Kansas lottery had offered to let the Woodlands keep the unallocated 15%, but Woodlands officials determined that it wouldn't be enough, said LaRocca.

"We were negotiating with the Kansas lottery, and they were very accommodating, so it really was not that," LaRocca said. "It's very hard. It's easy to run the numbers and see how they would work. A lot of experts have run the numbers and come to the same conclusion."

When slot legislation passed last year, Woodlands had rosy hopes. It projected that its purses could ultimately quadruple, from $50,000 to $200,000 per day while expanding its season from 25 days to 60.

Along with revenue from 800 slots the first year, Woodlands was eligible to apply for 600 more machines after that. Tracks that solely had dog racing and added slots would have contributed 7% to Woodlands' horse purses. 

Camptown Greyhound Park in Frontenac, Kan., which has been closed for eight years, had already ended negotiations with the lottery.

Woodlands opened in 1989 as a dual horse and dog racing facility, but wound up in bankruptcy as riverboat gambling spread and its revenues dropped.
It was bought by the late Bill Grace and is now owned by his children.

The track struggled for years, losing $2 million annually according to officials, but stayed afloat while trying to get casino legislation, which finally passed in 2007. On Tuesday, the track gave termination notices to employees.

"We've had declining revenues at the Woodlands, and it got to the point where we couldn't keep operating any longer," LaRocca said. "It's a very hard time for the Woodlands and anyone here. We've had employees that have been here for 19 years.

"I feel bad for all the horsemen and greyhound kennels. I wish we could have notified everyone earlier, but (track president) Howard Grace was trying to make it work."

Woodlands, however, is leaving open the possibility of the track someday re-opening.

"Howard Grace told the employees that he would continue to keep trying to make it work," LaRocca said. "I do know if he can make the numbers work, he wants to do it."

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