Fargo Racetrack Gets Conditional Support

North Dakota racing commissioners gave their support and a $1 million commitment Wednesday to a proposed racetrack in Fargo.

The commitment, however, comes with conditions. No state money will be spent on the project until Fargo area supporters secure nearly $3 million in in-kind services and cash, and submit solid construction and track management plans to the North Dakota Racing Commission, according to the Fargo Forum.

The North Dakota Horse Park Foundation, which intends to build the racetrack and a surrounding horse park with year-round activities, has until June 1 to secure funding and submit its plans.

If the conditions are met, the racetrack will be built on land between the adjoining cities of Fargo and West Fargo. The land is owned by the city of Fargo. Racing commissioners picked the Fargo site over another proposal in Mandan, near the capital of Bismarck. If built, the 3/4-mile Fargo track would offer six to 12 days of live racing beginning in 2002.

Mandan supporters proposed building a racetrack outside an existing stock car track at the Dacotah Centennial Park. A majority of racing commissioners did not like the Mandan proposal because cars could not reach their track without driving over the horse track. Racing horses over the compressed surface seemed like a bad idea to most commissioners, who voted 3-2 in favor of the Fargo proposal.

The racing commission will reconsider the Mandan site only if the Fargo foundation cannot meet its requirements by the deadline.

Fargo supporters must secure $2.4 million in in-kind contributions from the Fargo and West Fargo city commissions. The cities must contribute an additional $100,000 each. The North Dakota Horse Park Foundation also must drum up $300,000 in corporate and marketing sponsorships. The foundation is headed by Susan Bala, the president and founder of Racing Services, which sets up and operates off-track betting networks in North Dakota, South Dakota, Idaho, and Oregon.