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Calder Asked to Reconsider Rent Plan

Track considering $2.50 per day rent for workers who live on backside.

The Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association is asking Calder Casino & Race Course to call off a plan to charge grooms and hot walkers rent to live in rooms in the track’s barn area.

According to the Florida HPBA, the Miami Gardens, Fla., track intends on June 1 to start charging rent of $2.50 per person per night for those small dorm-like rooms.

Calder told the Florida HBPA about the plan in early May, said Phil Combest, president of the horsemen’s group that has an office on Calder’s backside.

On May 28, the Florida HBPA issued a statement in which it said the rents would be the first for Calder backside residents in the track’s 41-year history.

John Marshall, Calder’s vice president and general manager for racing, was not available for comment May 28.

Another Calder official said the Florida HBPA was “premature in its announcement.”  Discussions are ongoing and no formal agreement or announcement has been made yet, the official said.

“They have made it clear they will go through with it,” Combest said. “This would be a burden for these important workers who are struggling to get by financially.”

The Florida HBPA estimates that the rents for the 270 rooms would produce annual revenue of about $500,000 per year for Calder, which is a subsidiary of publicly-held Churchill Downs Inc.

In a statement, Florida HBPA executive director Kent Stirling said: “Generally, two workers live in one of Calder’s cinderblock dormitory rooms, which typically measure 8.5’ X 11.5’, have no running water, no cooking areas and no private bathrooms.”

At $2.50 per person, the cost would be $75 per person a month for the horse caretakers who are employees of trainers.

“The rent that Calder is proposing would be the highest of any racetrack in the United States,” the Florida HBPA said.

In its statement, the Florida HBPA held out the prospect of using money from a Calder-Florida HBPA backside improvements fund to pay for any stable area employee rent.

But the Florida HBPA said Calder has stopped making contributions to the fund that was established late last year.