Keeneland has chosen a site in Corbin for a quarter-horse track and entertainment venue that will feature year-round simulcasting of races from elsewhere and hundreds of historical racing terminals, similar to slot machines.
Keeneland picked the site on the Corbin bypass in Knox County after looking at half a dozen potential locations in the southeast part of the state, said Vince Gabbert, vice president and chief operating officer of Keeneland.
Construction is scheduled to start this summer and be done next year. The initial phase includes the track, barns, seating, a restaurant, an instant-racing parlor and parking, which will cost about $30 million, Gabbert said.
"We want to create a destination," he said Tuesday.
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Keeneland hopes to begin live racing in summer 2016 with 10 to 16 weekend dates, but that timetable might be a bit aggressive, Gabbert said.
If so, the track would start live racing in summer 2017.
Gabbert said the plan is to start with about 300 historical or instant-racing terminals.
They are similar to slot machines, with winners determined by the outcome on videos of previously run races.
Opponents are challenging the legality of historical racing in Kentucky, but hundreds of terminals already are in use at Kentucky Downs in Franklin and Ellis Park in Henderson. Since they have gone in, about $1 billion has been wagered. Most of the money has been returned to bettors in the form of winnings, but millions of dollars have gone to purses and breeders incentives.
Gabbert previously has said that the Corbin historical racing facility is expected to average $1 million in gambling each day, similar to Kentucky Downs.
Keeneland won approval last year to acquire the license of the struggling Thunder Ridge harness racing track in Prestonsburg and convert it to a quarter-horse track.
There are still some details to clear up. For instance, Keeneland has 152 acres under option at the Corbin site, but has yet to complete the purchase.
The state Horse Racing Commission also has to give final approval to relocate the license for the track.
The track and related facilities will occupy about 50 acres of the site, leaving the rest for potential development such as a hotel and other restaurants or retail stores.
Officials said the track is expected to provide 100 to 150 full-time, permanent jobs after construction, and additional seasonal jobs.
"We just are obviously very excited about this opportunity," said Bruce Carpenter, director of economic development for Corbin.
Keeneland looked at another site in an unincorporated area just off Interstate 75 in north Corbin. But it is not legal to sell alcohol there, which was a significant impediment.
The spot Keeneland chose on the Corbin bypass, while farther off I-75, is in the city limits of Corbin, which allows alcohol sales.
Putting the track there will require improvements to access off the bypass.
Gov. Steve Beshear has committed $1 million to improve road access, and state Senate President Roberts Stivers, a Republican whose district includes the track site, is trying to secure an additional $2 million, Gabbert said.