Millions of dollars in revenue and hundreds of jobs will be coming soon to the tri-county. On Tuesday, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission approved a license for Keeneland to bring a traditional harness racing track to Knox County.
“I was notified today at 2 p.m. that the Corbin license was approved,” said Knox County Judge-Executive Mike Mitchell.
“We are excited that the Racing Commission has approved our license application for race dates and we look forward to what this project will mean for all of southeast Kentucky,” said Vince Gabbard, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for Keeneland.
“The Keeneland Corbin/Knox county horse racing facility has accomplished another milestone today when the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission approved the racing license for this location today,” Mitchell said. “This is exactly what we were told to expect when I met last month with Vince Gabbard from Keeneland and other regional leaders last month in Corbin. This project will be great for our local and regional economic development and growth.”
The primary location, which is now a traditional harness racing track as opposed to a quarter horse track as previously proposed, will include a full racing track, hotel, restaurant and commercial space to be located on the property purchased by Keeneland in 2016 off the Corbin bypass.
The project was first announced in spring of 2015 with an opening date of September 2016, but quickly ran into hurdles securing a racing license during the administration of Governor Matt Bevin. Originally, Keeneland sought to purchase the required license from Appalachian Racing Inc., a defunct track in Floyd County.
Though Keeneland purchased property off the Corbin Bypass in 2016, construction was never realized on the property.
Eventually, Keeneland partnered with Churchhill Downs Inc. The project seemed all but dead until the announcement in September.
Keeneland announced that it had partnered with Kentucky Downs of Franklin, Ky., which is majority-owned, controlled and managed by a partnership led by Ron Winchell and Marc Falcone. In Keeneland’s press release in September, Winchell was quoted saying, “Horse racing is an extremely vital part of the Commonwealth’s economy; with the addition of a new race track and related amenities in southeastern Kentucky, it will help to continue the momentum we have created for the state and our industry in recent years.”
“This project will strengthen Kentucky’s vital horse industry and positively impact the Commonwealth and the local communities by stimulating significant economic growth, generating hundreds of new jobs and enhancing tourism and hospitality,” added Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason.
An extension location in Williamsburg was also proposed that would offer racing machines, a hotel and restaurant. A decision regarding the extension location has not been made.
Construction is slated to begin early 2021 and could take as long as 18 months to complete. According to Gabbard, “As far as moving forward, due to the Supreme Court decision a few weeks ago, it will be a couple of months before we begin construction, but we are moving forward with site plans, engineering and design work so that when we reach an appropriate conclusion, we will be ready to get started.”