Mohave County
May 2024
Volume 24 Issue 3

Oct 2023 | October 2023 | 0 comments

Turf Paradise’s Future Brightens with Potential Sale and Plans for Revival

October 2023 | 0 comments

October 2023

ARIZONA – The iconic Turf Paradise racetrack in Phoenix, which seemed on the brink of closure, has found a potential lifeline. Recent developments suggest that the racetrack’s future might be more secure than previously thought, with a potential sale on the horizon and plans for a grand revival.
Earlier this month, the racetrack’s owner, Jerry Simms, had announced his retirement, signaling the end of live horse racing at Turf Paradise by Oct. 1. This decision would have also led to the closure of the racetrack’s 37 Off-Track Betting (OTB) sites scattered throughout Arizona, usually found in bars and restaurants. These closures would have had significant implications for the state’s horse racing industry.
However, in a turn of events, a potential purchase led by Frank Nickens, described as the “visionary” behind the deal, and another partner is in the works. The primary buyer is set to be Richard Moore, associated with the Turf Paradise Land Trust. If this deal goes through, it promises to save over 5,000 jobs, a significant boost to the local economy.
Jerry Simms has expressed optimism about the sale, noting that he has a letter of intent from the Moore partnership to purchase the property. He anticipates the sale to close within the next 60 days, allowing Turf Paradise to operate under new ownership by next year. Simms has owned Turf Paradise since 2000, having purchased it for $53 million. The track, which opened its doors in 1956, has faced financial challenges in recent years.
Nickens’ involvement in the potential purchase came after he learned about the imminent closure of Turf Paradise. Recognizing the historical significance of the 67-year-old facility and the potential job losses, Nickens took an interest. He envisions a bright future for Turf Paradise, with plans to invest in its redevelopment. This could include new amenities like hotels, restaurants, and other businesses that cater to the horse industry.
J. Lloyd Yother, president of the Arizona Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, met with Nickens and expressed cautious optimism about the future. “All we’re looking for is for someone to run live racing in the state of Arizona and to save the industry,” Yother remarked.
David Auther, a co-owner of Arizona Downs, another racetrack in the state, emphasized the importance of “vetting” the new potential ownership. He highlighted the significance of OTB and advance deposit-wagering revenues, which are vital for racetracks in Arizona.
Vince Francia, Turf Paradise’s general manager, shared a statement from Richard Moore, CEO of Turf Paradise Land Trust, outlining their vision. “We plan to keep live racing, bring this facility into a new era—horse racing for the benefit of everyone involved,” Francia stated. The goal is to preserve the legacy of Turf Paradise for another half-century, with comprehensive redevelopment plans that prioritize the horse racing industry.
With these developments, the future of Turf Paradise and horse racing in Arizona looks promising. The potential sale and subsequent revival plans could breathe new life into this historic racetrack, ensuring its legacy continues for generations to come.
– Jeremy Webb

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