03/22/2017 3:56PM

Suffolk Downs sold to development firm; racing to continue through 2018

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The owners of Suffolk Downs in East Boston, Mass., have reached an agreement to sell the track and its property to a real-estate development company, but live racing and simulcasting is expected to continue at the track through at least the end of 2018, according to officials.

The real-estate development company, McClellan Highway Development Co., is expected to take the title to the 161-acre property after the deal closes later this year, but because of the need to get approvals to redevelop the land, the track will remain open for brief live meets in both 2017 and 2018 and as a simulcasting facility, the officials said.

Chip Tuttle, the chief operating officer of Suffolk, said on Wednesday that the current owner of the track, Sterling Suffolk Racecourse LLC, will lease the facility from the new owners in 2017 and 2018 and retain the track’s racing license. He also said Suffolk would attempt to continue to operate a simulcasting facility at the property even after it is redeveloped, but he cautioned that talks about the potential for an OTB site remain in the “very, very early stages.”

“We’d like to hold onto that simulcasting license indefinitely, if at all possible,” Tuttle said.

On Wednesday, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission was scheduled to add approval of the sale to its agenda for a meeting scheduled for March 30.

Suffolk’s owner has been seeking a buyer for several years, ever since the track was rejected for a casino license in Massachusetts in 2014. The track has held brief live meets over the past two years, and this year, racing is scheduled for six days over three weekends in the summer and the fall.

Lou Raffetto, a consultant to the state’s horsemen, said on Wednesday that the horsemen had been made aware of the pending sale and that they had received assurances that live racing would continue this year and next year.

“As we understand it, we will hold the meet as scheduled this year, and we’ll look to do something similar next year,” Raffetto said.

Horsemen in the state are continuing to pursue a plan to build an equine facility elsewhere in Massachusetts, in the hopes of capitalizing on subsidies that flow to the industry from the state’s casinos. The new equine facility would be owned and operated by the horsemen, but the plan relies on help from the state.

McClellen Highway Development Co. is a subsidiary of HYM Investment Group, one of the largest real-estate developers in the Boston area. The company’s website says it specializes in “mixed-use urban projects with major residential, commercial, and retail components.”