Northfield Park gaming and entertainment project construction expected to begin in January

by Jeff Saunders | reporter Published:

Northfield Village -- Motorists driving along Route 8 past Northfield Park should see construction begin before the end of January on a $275-million gaming and entertainment complex at the race track's southern end.

"You're going to see things ramp up over the next couple of weeks," said Brock Milstein, Northfield Park's chief executive officer, on Jan. 11.

Milstein said site preparatory work was taking place.

Milstein said a license application for the facility will also soon be filed with the Ohio Lottery Commission.

"We anticipate doing that within the next two weeks," he said, adding that once the lottery commission completes its review of the application, a $10 million down payment on a $50 million licensing fee will be paid.

It will be the last of Ohio's seven horse race tracks to apply, according to the lottery commission.

Northfield Park and Hard Rock International announced last April that they had formed a partnership to develop the facility, often called a racino, and Village Council approved site plans for the project at the beginning of October. A construction fence went up around the end of that month.

Milstein said the facility will bring between 700 and 900 permanent jobs and "hundreds and hundreds" of construction jobs to the village. Village Finance Director Monica James said Jan. 11 the village did not yet have an estimate on income tax revenue it will receive.

"We're working on that, but we don't have anything yet," she said.

Village officials are also anticipating receiving $2 million in two installments this year from the state's Casino Operator Settlement Fund, which the General Assembly established in 2011 to hold funds paid into it by casino and race tracks. Legislation signed by Gov. John Kasich last June provides for the money to be distributed to communities hosting a race track. Communities must earmark half of the money on capital improvement projects.

"We should be getting $2 million in the first half of the year," Village Engineer Richard Wasosky told Council Jan. 9.

Milstein said the facility will include 2,300 to 2,500 video lottery terminals, devices similar to slot machines, and an 1,800 to 1,900 seat Hard Rock Live venue.

"We'll so 80 to 120 shows there a year, that's what we're anticipating," he said. "Pretty much anything, music and any kind of entertainment event."

Also planned is a 250-seat comedy club, Hard Rock Café, buffet, steak house, ice cream and yogurt shop and a Rock Shop offering Hard Rock merchandise, said Milstein.

Milstein said the racino will be the culmination of a long-sought goal to "diversify" the race track's gaming offerings, going back to when his late father Carl owned the track.

This included an effort several years ago to pass a ballot initiative that would have allowed casinos at the state's horse race tracks.

Voters in 2009 approved an amendment to the state's constitution allowing the construction of four casinos in the state. The racinos were authorized to operate under the auspices of the Ohio Lottery Commission.

"We're excited about it, that it's finally happening, and we're working diligently to make it happen as soon as possible," said Milstein. "I've personally been working on it for 14 years and my father was working on it for 10 years before that."

Email: jsaunders@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9432

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