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‘Counterproductive’: Ada County Commissioners decline to bring off-track betting back to Expo Idaho

Ada County won’t bring back off-track to Expo Idaho after all. 

On Thursday, the Ada County Commissioners held a brief meeting to decide not to pursue the possibility of leasing the mothballed Turf Club at Les Bois Park to Las Vegas-based company Midnight Racing for off-track betting. The company, owned by Eric Nelson, operates a race track in Wyoming and 15 off-track betting facilities in the Cowboy State. 

Commissioner Kendra Kenyon, the board’s lone Democrat, made the motion to turn down the potential for leasing it.

“It would be counterproductive with the direction the board has recently decided to go with building the community and family park,” she said, referencing ongoing work to redevelop the Expo Idaho site. 

Republican Commissioner Ryan Davidson seconded her motion but offered no comments. Republican Commission Chair Rod Beck called for a vote and all three backed declining the lease.

Off-track betting not to be a part of park redevelopment

The county put the two-story building that once housed a bar and grill overlooking the abandoned race track out to bid for businesses interested in leasing it over the summer. Midnight Racing was the only “legitimate” offer to lease the site, and commissioners have been mulling it ever since. 

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. 

In the past few months, Ada County Commissioners have been discussing using American Rescue Plan Act funds to revamp roughly 200 acres of the former race track into a park with a range of community amenities. Commissioner named Philadelphia-based firm PORT as the winner of its design contest earlier this fall.

Details on when construction of park amenities will start and what exactly the design will entail in the first phase of development are still being determined. 

Correction: The original version of this story misidentified who voted on the decision. All three Commissioners voted to decline the lease.

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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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