07/08/2011 3:06PM

Lone Star owner Global lays out vision for track


GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas − Global Gaming Solutions, which took over ownership of Lone Star Park in May, will jump into a series of projects designed to improve the track’s facilities and enhance its operations once the meet closes Sunday.

“We’ll spend millions before the end of this calendar,” said John Elliott, the 53-year-old chief executive officer of Global and a native of Australia.

Global, which also owns Remington Park in Oklahoma City, purchased the operating assets of Lone Star for $47 million out of a bankruptcy auction in an MI Developments deal that closed May 16. The Ada, Okla., company, which is financially backed by the Chickasaw Nation − an entity that reports gaming and tribal assets of more than $1 billion − pursued the track in part because of its marketplace, said Elliott.

“Lone Star Park is a great entertainment facility, and I don’t think anyone would say anything otherwise,” he said. “It’s in a terrific location in the center of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, surrounded by first-rate entertainment institutions. We think it has a lot of untapped entertainment potential. It’s been languishing in bankruptcy, so it’s been difficult for management to enact any sort of reasonable plan.

“As we all know, the racing industry faces some challenges, and I think part of that challenge is about attracting new clientele, new customers,” he said. “First and foremost, there’s a branding question. How do we want to brand, position Lone Star? We haven’t answered that question yet. We have to do some market research, to see how it’s seen and perceived to help sort of shape the future.”

Elliott said another priority is to completely renovate the simulcast pavilion, a 15-year-old Las Vegas-style racebook located in a separate building near the grandstand.

“That process will take place as soon as the Thoroughbred meet ends, and we hope to get it done in three months, or thereabouts,” Elliott said. “That will have a whole new facelift, the interior, the technology, food and beverage.”

The pavilion will temporarily close July 18, with simulcast operations to be held in the grandstand. A goal with the renovations is to improve “the visual experience” for customers, meaning there will be upgrades to television screens and added wall projectors.

In the same vein, Elliott said another project is to improve the look of Lone Star’s signal. Global’s plans also include making improvements to the grandstand and its technology, repairing barns and bathrooms in the stable area, and aggressively enhancing group sales in what Elliott noted is a strong corporate marketplace.

“The entertainment front, I think Lone Star does a great job of that,” Elliott said Thursday. “This year, they’ve had 82,000 people that have been to the live concerts at Lone Star, which is pretty impressive, I think, with two concerts remaining. We think there’s a lot of potential there, things we can do with the right amenities.”

Elliott said Lone Star’s ontrack statistics were encouraging. Attendance on opening weekend was 50,471, up 16 percent from 2010, according to Elliott. He also said the Kentucky Oaks simulcast drew 14,500 people, up 9 percent from 2010.

“Looking at the track, and we’ve just taken the keys, there were some encouraging stats,” he said. “Opening weekend at Lone Star, 50,471 attended, up 16 percent above 2010. For the [Kentucky] Oaks [simulcast], there were 14,500 people, up 9 percent over 2010. Clearly, there are some positive indicators on attendance,” he said. “The question is, what else are the crowds looking for? Are we getting repeat customers? Are we missing some of the customers that we want? I think the answer to all of those things is probably, ‘Yes.’ ”

Elliott said through Thursday, handle on Lone Star’s races ontrack this meet was up about 1 percent over 2010. In the area of simulcast out, he said handle was down 8.3 percent.

“Looking at those numbers, they’re not fantastic, but they’re not catastrophically bad, either,” he said. “It reflects a lot of confidence lost in the Texas market at the moment. People sat there, observed Lone Star in bankruptcy. Hopefully, we can start to make a difference here.”

◗ Lone Star will run six races on the grass on its closing card, with the main event a wide-open allowance at five furlongs on turf. Antioch Diamond and Aces N Kings, both stakes winners at the trip, are top contenders in the full field of 12.

Antioch Diamond will be making his first start since February, when he finished sixth to Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint champ Chamberlain Bridge in a stakes at Sam Houston. Before that race, Antioch Diamond won five straight. He will be ridden by Cliff Berry, who entered the raceweek with a two-win lead in the standings in search of his fourth Lone Star title. Others in the field include El Oso, whose owner, Tom Durant, will win his seventh Lone Star Thoroughbred title on Sunday.

◗ Karl Broberg, second in the Lone Star trainer standings to Bret Calhoun, has one of the top contenders in the featured sixth race at Louisiana Downs. Daddy’s Miracle will be seeking her third win in her last four starts in the first-level allowance for fillies and mares. It will be run at about five furlongs on turf. Daddy’s Miracle has never been worse than second on the turf and is to be ridden by Quincy Hamilton.