Demolition at River Downs

Demolition at River Downs

Tom LaMarra

Pinnacle Begins Demolition of River Downs

A new grandstand with room for gaming machines will be built sometime this year.

If there was any chance a live race meet would be held at River Downs in Ohio this year, it's officially gone.

Pinnacle Entertainment, which owns the track, has begun demolishing racing structures and digging up the one-mile dirt track. Pinnacle plans to move the dirt track and turf closer to the barn area that sits beyond the far turn, meaning neither can be used for racing.

The casino company will also level the open-air grandstand to make way for an integrated racetrack casino with video lottery terminals. Cost of the project is in excess of $200 million.

As of Jan 10 the paddock had been demolished. The clubhouse, which serves as a race book, remains open.

The transfer of this year's River Downs meet to Beulah Park near Columbus hinges on an agreement between Pinnacle and Penn National Gaming Inc., which owns Beulah Park. Officials said the agreement is in the hands of attorneys.

The Ohio State Racing Commission must approve the transfer of dates, but it hasn't been presented with a schedule.

"They are in the throes of putting a deal together to accommodate (the transfer of racing dates)," OSRC chairman Robert Schmitz said Jan. 10.

It's expected the usual Ohio Thoroughbred Race Fund stakes held at River Downs each summer will move to Beulah Park, though all of the races will have to be run on the dirt. River Downs is the only Ohio track with a turf course.