By Jeanne Starmack
Developers are planning a $300 million complex that includes a race track, a resort with a 400-room hotel, a golf course, theaters, stores and restaurants in the Youngstown area.
A partner in the Mahoning Valley Development Group says there will also be a casino in the complex if it can include video lottery terminals, or slot machines.
Rick Lertzman, a former business consultant, and Bradford Pressman, a retired podiatrist, both of Cleveland, are partners in the venture, Lertzman told The Vindicator Saturday.
Lertzman said that, unlike the troubled Valley View Downs project across the state border in Lawrence County, Pa., their venture has funding in place from local and national investors. Centaur, which wanted to build a combined race-track/casino — labeled a ‘racino,’ in Mahoning Township, lost its funding because it couldn’t get a gaming license by a specified deadline. Centaur sold its property in December to American Harness Track LLC, which is still on course to develop a racino there.
Lertzman said the Pennsylvania project will have no bearing on whether his development group will go forward with its own plans.
He said Youngstown is a good location for the venture.
“It’s the only major demographic area that does not have a casino,” he said. “We think it’s high time Youngstown had something.”
Lertzman said the Mahoning Valley Downs & Resort will be built on more than 200 acres, but he would not reveal the exact location. He said roads, water and sewer lines are already in place.
The project should generate more than 1,000 construction jobs and 1,500 to 2,000 permanent jobs, he said. It would be the state’s eighth racetrack.
Lertzman also said the partnership believes there is a good chance the complex will include a casino.
He said former Gov. Ted Strickland supported VLTs with racetracks, and the issue is in court to determine if he has the right, as governor, to legalize them through the state lottery. Gov. John Kasich, who assumed office last Monday, has not indicated how he stands on the issue, Lertzman said.
“We think it’s going to happen because the racetracks are having financial difficulties,” he said. He said that since a 2009 statewide ballot allowed four casinos in Toledo, Columbus, Cincinnati and Cleveland, the racetracks would lose even more ground without VLTs.
There are 40,000 jobs connected to the state’s racing industry, he pointed out.
Lertzman said the development group plans to apply for a license from the state racing commission within two months.
He said he doesn’t know how long it will take to get the license. The developers hope to break ground by late summer or early fall.
The complex plan includes a visitors center, thoroughbred horse racing, the casino, a five-star resort including the hotel , an international spa, a Kids Quest, a teen arcade, entertainment, “cutting-edge” shopping and dining and a championship golf course that “will attract national events.”