Sports Outside the Beltway

Hoosier Park owner defaults on loan

More bad news for North American horse racing.

Centaur LLC, owner of Hoosier Park Racing & Casino, defaulted on a loan to senior lenders Tuesday, October 27 when it missed a reported $13.4 million interest payment. The Indianapolis-based company stated in a press release issued October 29 that the decision to forego the interest payment on a $400 million-plus loan was done as part of an effort to restructure corporate debt. Centaur used the loan to pay a $250 million casino licensing fee and spent a total of $150 million on grandstand renovation and construction of its 92,000 square-foot racino, which opened in June 2008.

“Our business operations at the property level are healthy and generate positive cash flow from operations. We remain committed to putting our capital structure on solid ground,” Centaur Chairman Rod Ratcliff said in the release. “Restructuring our corporate debt will place us in a position for long-term success and benefit our customers, employees, horsemen groups, host communities and other stakeholders. We are confident our steps will ultimately strengthen the company.”

Down here in Florida, a racetrack is about to re-open. Hialeah Park which last had a race over eight years ago is going to host quarterhorse races beginning on November 28th.

Armed with its new quarter-horse permit — and racing dates approved this week by the state — Hialeah Park is gearing up for a Nov. 28 reopening. Roughly 150 construction workers are doing double shifts painting ceilings, patching damaged pipes and sweeping floors. As the deadline gets nearer, they might go to triple shifts.

“It will definitely be presentable. . . . for sure,” said Orlando Ceballos, the construction project manager.

Will Hialeah, which first opened in 1925, once again exude the grandeur that so many fondly remember?

Not completely, as large portions of the massive restoration effort won’t be done by the time Hialeah again welcomes the public.

Visitors at first will be allowed into the clubhouse area, but other sections still being repaired — such as the grandstand — will remain closed.

Gambling options will also be limited, as slot machines are not expected to arrive until a year or so from now.

I think it’s wishful thinking to believe Hialeah will prosper under those circumstances.

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