03/24/2016 1:56PM

Rockingham Park up for sale


The last sliver of hope that live Thoroughbred racing might return one day to Rockingham Park, where Seabiscuit, Dr. Fager, Mom’s Command and other Hall of Famers once competed, is extinguished now that the property is officially for sale.

President and general manager Ed Callahan said Thursday that the ownership group has listed the track’s remaining 120 acres with international commercial real estate broker Newmark Grubb Knight Frank. Last year, a local developer purchased 50 acres comprising most of what once was the backside for $9.6 million, and the barns, dorms, and other structures have been reduced to rubble.

Rockingham Park, which debuted in 1906, is the eighth-oldest Thoroughbred track in the country but has not hosted a live meet since 2002. The track switched to harness racing exclusively in 2003 and then ended all live racing after the conclusion of the 2009 season.

The refusal of the New Hampshire legislature to authorize casino gambling each time a bill was brought forth over 21 consecutive years, coupled with the expansion of gambling in nearby Massachusetts, led to the final decision.

Although the state Senate in recent years has passed different versions of a casino bill, the House of Representatives has shot down every bill brought to the floor in modern times.

This year, steadfast casino supporter Sen. Lou D’Allessandro introduced SB 551, which called for a single destination casino located specifically at Rockingham Park. When the bill failed to garner sufficient support, it was amended to open up the casino location to anywhere in the state through a competitive bid process.

But that bill was tabled twice while supporters tried to muster enough votes in the current session. Even if the bill made it out of the senate, state representatives from both parties were adamant that it had no shot in the House of Representatives.

Thursday was crossover day, when bills introduced in each chamber had to be voted on and sent to the other for consideration.

Millennium Gaming of Las Vegas in 2007 purchased an option to buy the track should enabling casino legislation pass in New Hampshire and if its officials were able to secure the operational license. Millennium co-owner and co-chief executive William Wortman, who privately bought a 20 percent stake in the ownership group at the time, maintained that the reintroduction of live Thoroughbred racing was part of the revitalization plans for Rockingham Park.

Callahan said that once a buyer is secured, it will take as long as two years for the sales transaction to be completed. Meanwhile, Thoroughbred, harness, and greyhound simulcasting and the track’s charitable poker room will continue to operate.