02/24/2010 12:00AM

Fair board proceeding with Columbus meet


COLUMBUS, Neb. - Racing in Nebraska averted a potentially crippling blow Monday night when the Platte County Agricultural Society Board voted to proceed with plans to put on a 2010 Columbus race meet from July 30 to Sept. 12.

About 100 supporters, including horsemen, Columbus residents, and representatives from the Chamber of Commerce, attended the agricultural board's meeting, with former board members and the general public urging the board to give their authorization to move forward with the race meet.

A main concern of board members is the track has received an annual purse subsidy from the Nebraska Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, but a such a payment is not scheduled for this year. According to HBPA officials, Columbus had a purse overpayment of $40,000 last year and those funds are yet to be paid to the HBPA, which controls the purse accounts in the state.

Last week it was made public that Columbus only had a contract with the HBPA to offer simulcasting through March 1. At the meeting, HBPA president Jerry Fudge gave the board a verbal agreement to extend that contract through the end of March as the two groups work toward an agreement on a live meet.

The Columbus races posted its best ontrack numbers since 2006 during last year's season with attendance and handle both up significantly over 2008. But for the 10-month period from March to December of 2009, according to figures released by the Nebraska State Racing Commission, total handle (live and simulcast) at Columbus was virtually identical to the same period in 2008 at $5.9 million.

Columbus recently received the resignation of general manager Bill Lusche, who served in that capacity for the past two years. Board members indicated a replacement would be named soon.