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You Asked: What is the status of off-track betting at Expo Idaho?

Ada County got an offer to lease the mothballed Turf Club at Expo Idaho for off-track betting this summer, but there’s been no movement on it so far. 

Earlier this year, the county put out a request for proposals for interested parties to rent or develop the Turf Club, which overlooks the now abandoned racetrack at Les Bois Park. The only proposal the Ada County Commissioners said was legitimate came from Las Vegas-based company Midnight Racing owned by Eric Nelson. 

Midnight Racing hopes to add the Turf Club to its roster of 15 off-track betting facilities throughout Wyoming, but so far the Ada County Commissioners haven’t made a decision on the idea. County officials say they are waiting for repairs to the building to be completed and for other plans for the larger site to come together before they make a move.

A decision likely won’t come until after the November election. Meanwhile, the Expo Idaho site is not maintained by property taxes and is instead funded by revenue accrued on the property by the Western Idaho Fair and other events.

“We are pleased that there is a lot going on at EXPO to enhance and improve key areas of the 240-acre property,” a statement from board staff member Judy Morris on behalf of the Ada County Commissioners says. “As we move forward with any decision on the Turf Club, we will be reaching out to other elected officials in Ada County to ensure that key stakeholders have a say in the process.”

A county survey asking residents how they felt about leasing the club for off-track betting had 26 respondents with 19 of them saying they supported the idea, according to results obtained in a public records request by BoiseDev. When asked if the county should explore “other options” for leasing the Turf Club beyond off-track betting, 17 of the same respondents said yes. 

What’s going on at Expo Idaho?

Ada County has been talking about redeveloping the over 200-acre, largely empty Expo Idaho site for years now with little to no earth turned. 

But, the Ada County Commissioners are poised to make their first move later this year when they use federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to remove the decaying horse stables on the site to make room for a new park along the Greenbelt. The county selected a firm earlier this year to present several design concepts to the Commissioners to choose from at the beginning of October. 

“It’s important that the Turf Club and adjacent property be compatible,” the commissioners’ statement said, giving few details about what could be coming for the nearby park.  

The county is also in the process of earning approval from the U.S. Forest Service to move Lady Bird Park, which is located along the edge of the Expo site near Chinden Boulevard. This process, which requires an appraisal to determine the worth of the land, could take years and it is unclear where the parcel of equal value the county would use as the new Lady Bird Park will go on the Expo site. 

Moving Lady Bird Park would open that strip of land along the busy street for a new use, like mixed-use development, a new baseball stadium, parking decks or some other use identified in the county’s vision for the site a working group developed throughout 2020

Last week, the county announced it will announce three concepts for a portion of the land.

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Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at [email protected] or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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