Pinnacle Race Course

Pinnacle in Negotiations for 2011 Race Dates

The Detroit area track has faced many financial constraints since opening in 2008.

The owners of the Detroit, Mich.-area Pinnacle Race Course, which has been shuttered since November due to financial problems, including property tax issues, are working out details to try to host a limited racing schedule in 2011.

“Attempting to launch a racetrack in a depressed area with the financial situation of the country and of that area was obviously a challenge—much bigger than the owners anticipated,” said trainer Bob Gorham, a director of the state’s Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, of Jerry and Lisa Campbell’s decision to open the track in July 2008.

Gorham said the Campbells are currently trying to work out a deal with the HBPA and the Michigan Gaming and Control Board to host a 2011 race meet. The track, which also suspended simulcast operations at the end of its live meet Oct. 31, has already been awarded 84 days for 2011, however everything depends on funding.

“It would probably be in the neighborhood of a 30-day total race day meet; three days a week for 10 weeks is the current plan,” said Gorham, adding that the season was projected to run from July through September.

“It’s important to give horsemen some hope this is going to be worked out, because this isn't totally a dead issue,” said Gorham of Pinnacle, which has struggled financially since it opened. If the dates are approved, Gorham said they would likely be partially supplemented by the HBPA.

Last year, Pinnacle was able to race 41 days only because horsemen contributed $277,000–a cost originally to be funded by the state’s simulcast tax until the Gaming Control Board rescinded that budget item.

“The HBPA is entertaining that thought (supplementing race dates again) and is doing everything in their power to try and make a meet there this year,” said Gorham. He added that the HBPA would probably not be able to contribute as much to Pinnacle this year, but that the organization would do “everything we possibly can” to support the racetrack.

Gorham, who has a large racing stable and owns and breeds most of the horses he trains, said like many other horsemen, he has made plans to race in other states this year considering Pinnacle’s situation.

“If Pinnacle does open for whatever meet, I will certainly support it and be there to race,” he said. “But it’s going to be short enough that I can’t race and train there exclusively. I think most horsemen are in that situation.”

According to the Detroit business website, the Campbells have been in informal negotiations to sell a minority stake in Pinnacle in an effort to resolve problems with delinquent property taxes and insufficient funds.

Pinnacle didn't pay $1.46 million in property taxes collectively for 2009 and 2010 because it didn't receive its tax bills--a bureaucratic mistake.

"We have appealed those taxes; they're exorbitantly high,” Campbell told Crains Detroit.

According to the website, the appeal has been submitted to the Michigan Tax Tribunal, which isn't expected to resolve the cases for some time because of a two-year backlog. Campbell is being represented by Detroit-based Honigman, Miller, Schwartz, and Cohn.

In other financial woes, Crains Detroit reported the local Huron Township attorney is expected to sue Pinnacle for more than $170,000 in arrearages for police protection.

Township supervisor Elke Doom told Crains Detroit that Pinnacle had informed the township last summer it didn't believe it needed to honor its police contract. The track made a payment offer that was ignored, and the matter is now being handled by lawyers, according to Campbell.