06/04/2003 12:00AM

Packed house for Nebraska proposal

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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. - The Nebraska State Racing Commission heard testimony Tuesday afternoon before an overflow crowd at the Interstate Holiday Inn here regarding Brian Becker's proposal to build a new racetrack in Hastings, Neb.

Fonner Park management contends that the track, which would be less than 30 miles away from their facility, would be a drain on their simulcast and live racing fan base.

Following nearly five hours of testimony from economic advisors and attorneys representing both sides, the commission tabled the application. Both sides will have the opportunity to submit final arguments by June 20, and commissioner Dennis Lee set a tentative date of July 21 for the commission to rule on the application.

Becker originally submitted a license application for Hastings Racing and Exposition this spring at a commission meeting during Fonner Park's meet.

The application was to offer one day of live racing involving both Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses at the proposed Hastings facility in September of this year, and to offer year-round simulcasting of both breeds.

"Racing is struggling right now," Becker said in his testimony. "We basically need these [simulcast centers] in our populated areas."

Brad Kissler, who represents Hastings Racing, added that while Fonner may lose some business, the added money that Fonner would receive as the originating track during its live meet would offset those losses.

Kissler added that all tracks in the state would benefit from the added customer base drawn to the new track.

Horsemen's Park in Omaha, The Nebraska Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, and the Nebraska Thoroughbred Breeders' Association presented testimony against licensing the new track, citing the drain on Fonner Park as their main concerns.