03/12/2012 12:12PM

Monmouth: Horsemen talking to developers about resort project

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The New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association is in discussions with potential partners for the development of property surrounding Monmouth Park, according to the horsemen’s chief negotiator and legal counsel.

The developments under discussion include a water park, a hotel, a two-screen movie theater, retail space, and a Jersey-style boardwalk at the track, according to the legal counsel, Dennis Drazin. The intent of the projects is to turn Monmouth Park into a year-round destination and provide alternative revenue sources to the horsemen’s association, which will operate Monmouth for at least the next five years under a lease from the state.

Drazin said that the horsemen’s association may reach agreements for the funding of some of the developments by the end of the week. The horsemen, whose assets are currently limited to their cash on hand and the future value of the revenue from Monmouth Park, are also in discussions with a bet-processing company to build three offtrack betting locations in the state, Drazin said.

Drazin would not identify any of the prospective partners.

The horsemen won the right to operate Monmouth earlier this year under a lease that could run as long as 35 years. The track is owned by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which has forecast that the track will lose $8 million on operations this year.

Drazin said that construction on any of the Monmouth projects would not begin until later this year, after Monmouth closes its meet. The track is scheduled to open on May 12, and racing days at the track could stretch into early November.

“It’s a longshot to be able to move forward on any of the plans this year,” Drazin said. “We’re opening in about 60 days, and then we’ve got a lot of approvals that would need to be worked out.”

The plan is modeled on elements of a lease deal the state attempted to work out last year with the New York real estate developer Morris Bailey. That deal was scuttled late in 2011.

Bailey told the Asbury Park Press that he anticipates helping Monmouth Park implement the development plans, through he “declined to say if he will make a specific investment,” the Press said.

“I think the horsemen are the right people to run the track and I’m very optimistic about the future of the track,” Bailey was quoted as saying. “With the right private management that’ll be able to turn it into a resort destination.”