HENDERSON, Ky. (WFIE) - Ellis Park’s new owners, Ellis Entertainment, LLC, are with Laguna Development Corporation, and they held a press conference Friday to roll out their plans for the facility.
As we first reported, the plan includes a brand new facility in front of the current one, as well as restaurants, and a hotel. Officials say they hope to do the work in phases and have a new facility open by November 2020.
Jerry Smith, Managing Board Member of Ellis Entertainment LLC (EE) said: “Today [Friday] we are excited to announce the dawn of a new era at Ellis Park. We bring more than 20 years of experience in the hospitality and entertainment industry to a project that will put Ellis Park back on the map as one of Kentucky’s premier racing and gaming facilities.”
The owners announced the first two phases include a series of renovations and improvements, and they say many have been completed or in progress.
Phase I includes an initial $3 million investment.
Ken Mimmack, EE’s Project Director, said: “We have completed resurfacing of the track, repairing and improving the drainage system, removed dilapidated barns, replaced some interior barn walls, replaced the clubhouse roof and have done extensive clean-up and repainting of the grandstand area. We will also update and upgrade the water system.”
The owners say Phase II is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2019. It includes $6.2 million in upgrades to the grandstands, barns, site utilities, entryways, landscaping and the audio-visual system.
Officials say another $47 million in investments will include a new Historical Horse Racing (HHR) facility, widening of the turf track and installing track lighting to allow for expanded night racing.
The new HHR facility will be approximately 75,000 square feet and include the phased addition of up to 900 gaming machines along with three restaurants and a live entertainment venue.
Officials also announced a long-term vision for ultimately building a hotel or other amenities on the site.
Mimmack said: “If the improvements and expansions of Phase I and II perform to expectations then we would look at other ways to ultimately offer a full-service resort experience that will serve visitors and locals alike.”
As we reported, Saratoga Casino & Hospitality Group sold the property to Ellis Entertainment LLC for $11 million.
According to Marketing Chief Skip Sayre: “We are a company that engages in the communities we live and work in. We look forward to being positive contributors in the local business community as part of our belief in a culture committed to quality, service and value for our partners, employees and guests.”
Ellis Park General Manager Jeff Hall said: “All of us here at Ellis Park are thrilled to see the improvements Ellis Entertainment is already making and their plans for the future will insure this racetrack, first opened in 1922, will be an attraction the Henderson/Evansville community can be proud to call their own.”
As for phase three of this project, it is really contingent on how well the first two phases go after being completed. If all goes well they are looking into demolishing the clubhouse and building a resort.