Yavapai Downs racetrack in Prescott Valley, AZ has been languishing in bankruptcy and collecting dust since the summer of 2011, but now a cowpoke with a white hat has galloped to the rescue.
Arizona businessman Gary Miller has been working with a bankruptcy trustee and bank financiers to bring the operation back to life, and Miller says he can breathe life back into it as early as this week with barn and stable operations, re-starting the auto race track, and getting the event center ready for shows.
“It made more sense to divide the financing into two parts, the gaming and non-gaming portions,” said Miller. “The financial institutions felt more comfortable doing it this way.”
So, this Friday, May 10, the barns and stables will open for horses that need to be laid up or pampered while waiting to be called back to racing tracks such as Turf Paradise in Phoenix.
“We look forward to Gary getting the horse racing side of the business open soon,” said Vincent Francia, manager of Turf Paradise in Phoenix – Arizona’s largest horse racing operation. “If Yavapai Downs opens, it will help the entire horse racing industry in Arizona and neighboring states. I applaud Gary’s enthusiasm and dedication to getting the Downs up and running.”
Miller expects 85-100 horses will amble in over the next several weeks, and that’s good for people seeking work at the track, as well as Miller who will charge stable fees.
In addition, Miller says he will begin auto-racing practice next week on the short track adjacent to the horse track. He has been investing in new safety features and nicer women’s bathrooms and he will expect the call to “start engines” on Memorial Day weekend.
Car racers pay a fee and will get winnings depending on how they finish. “We hope to see 250-400 people during the race days. These are sprint and minis, not the big stock cars you might have seen in the old Daytona days, but it’s fun and exciting. Our liquor license is nearly ready and our concession stands will be open.” And that means more jobs for Prescott Valley, and a revenue stream for Miller.
The old Coors Center at Yavapai Downs is getting cleaned up and Miller hopes to have it ready for July events such as horse shows, rodeos and auctions.
Miller is an accountant and equestrian by trade. He is past president of the Arizona Horseman’s Benevolent and Protective Association (the AHBPA).
“Arizona’s horsemen need a place to go in the summer months where it’s not too hot,” said current president of the AHBPA, Tom Metzen. “We support Gary’s efforts to re-open Yavapai Downs. We’ve been working with him on this project for about 18 months.”
Horse racing at Yavapai Downs is the ultimate goal for Miller, so he is meeting with lenders who are specific to gaming operations for that side of the business. He says there is “intense interest among the lenders.”
The next report in this series will describe the history of Miller’s efforts, and the how the business of horse racing in Prescott Valley can have a ripple effect throughout the state of Arizona.
The first report in this series described how the racetrack went bankrupt and who is being blamed for its demise. That report can be read at: