Help Wanted: Racetrack Operator in Idaho

As a result of Capitol Racing’s decision to cease live and simulcast horse racing at Les Bois Park in Boise, Idaho, the Board of Ada County Commissioners has begun the process of searching for parties interested in leasing the 68-acre facility.

“Southwestern Idaho residents have made horse racing a favorite year-round pastime,” Ada County Commission chairman Fred Tilman said in a statement. “We hope our nationwide search will produce a list of qualified and reputable track operators who are willing to help keep the sport alive in Boise, Idaho.”

The board of commissioners has officially opened the request for proposals process by placing notices in several national horseracing trade publications. Interested parties will have until April 6 to submit their proposals to the commission for consideration.

The RFP process comes nearly four years after Ada County first entered into a lease agreement with Capitol Racing. In a letter dated Feb. 13, Capitol Racing owner Steve Bieri cited the impact of tough economic times as the reason his company had decided to end its lease on the county-owned facility.

“The decision to terminate the lease must have been extremely difficult for Capitol Racing," Tilman said. "Steve Bieri and his team have been exceptional tenants. While we hate to see them go, we certainly understand this is a business decision the company was forced to make during this time of extreme economic uncertainty."

Under the lease agreement, Capitol Racing paid Ada County’s Expo Idaho/Western Idaho Fair enterprise fund about $300,000 a year for use the racetrack, stables, grandstand, and Turf Club. Ada County property taxes do not fund the Expo Idaho/Western Idaho Fair, and the bulk of Capitol Racing’s lease payments paid for Les Bois Park facility upgrades.

Capitol Racing's decision to terminate the lease will not result in any economic hardships for Ada County taxpayers, officials said. In an attempt to assist Capitol Racing, the board of commissioners accommodated a request to renegotiate the terms of the lease agreement; however Capitol Racing never finalized the lease modifications that were up for consideration.

Realizing the racing season is quickly approaching, the Board of Ada County Commissioners asked staff to expedite the RFP process in hopes a new track operator can continue live and simulcast racing with minimal interruptions to the 2009 racing season. At the same time, commissioners have indicated they are committed to a thorough due-diligence process that will fully vet potential tenants and identify their ability to utilize Les Bois Park to its fullest and highest use.

The formal RFP timeline is as follows: RFP issued March 2; pre-proposal meeting March 19; questions due from submitting agencies March 24; addendums to RFP March 27; proposals due April 6; and proposals opened April 7.