Ellis Entertainment LLC has purchased Ellis Racetrack for $11 million in a deal sealed early Tuesday.
The group has big plans – investing $100 million to improve the race track in three phases.
Reverend Ron Crawford has been Ellis Park’s chaplain for 17 years.
“Initially everything’s going to be on the front side, but eventually it’s gonna work back here, and anything that’ll help them, will help me,” said Crawford.
Reverend Crawford says he’s looking forward to new ownership.
“These last few people that came through and own the place, they haven’t really done much good, but the way I understand it these people are completely different and they’re gonna help us,” he said.
Phase one of the projects has already begun – including work on the current facility – like improving drainage at the track, working on the grandstands and replacing the H-VAC system in the Sky Terrace.
By Fall, phase two will be underway – including widening the turf track by three lanes and installing lights around the park.
They also plan to create a new building to house 1,200 historical racing machines – far more than the current 300 machines.
The final phase will bring a new hotel to Ellis Park – which will go up in the first turn.
President and CEO of Southwest Indiana Chamber Tara Barney says the economic impact will benefit the entire area.
“So I think the announcement of the third phase adding the hotel really says something about the company’s interest in investing not just in the short term, but in the long term improvement of an asset, and that asset certainly will be one more way that people choose to come to spend extra time in southwest Indiana,” Barney said.
Barney says Indiana’s Southwest Chamber stands behind the sale.
“You know we all love the horse racing industry, so this transaction sounds like it’s gonna be a very interesting addition to our region and certainly one that brings the kind of investment we welcome,” Barney said.
Current owner Saratoga will continue to operate throughout the 2019 racing season through a management agreement with the New Mexico buyers.
But major changes could come sooner than later.
Ellis Entertainment will immediately begin maintenance and facility upgrades as part of the developers comprehensive remodeling and expansion plan.
Ellis Park is the second-oldest racetrack in Kentucky only behind Churchill Downs.
The ownership transfer is set to wrap up in the next few days – and officials say they plan to close on the sale by the end of the month.