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Developers share plans for racetrack and resort

Published: Wed, January 19, 2011 @ 12:00 a.m.


A proposed $300 million complex in the Mahoning Valley would include a horse racetrack, a golf course, restaurants and stores. Bradford Pressman, one of the developers of what would be called Mahoning Valley Downs and Resorts, explains the project to reporters Tuesday at Mr. Anthony’s in Boardman.

By David Skolnick



The Developers of a proposed $300 million complex in the Mahoning Valley with a horse racetrack, resort and possibly a casino say they’re making progress in obtaining a track license from the Ohio State Racing Commission.

However, top officials at the racing commission said they wonder what Rick Lertzman and Bradford Pressman, heads of the Mahoning Valley Development Group, are talking about.

Tom Fries Jr., the commission’s executive director, described his agency’s interaction with Lertzman and Pressman as “less than informal contact.”

“I don’t know these gentlemen,” Fries told The Vindicator during a telephone interview Tuesday. “There haven’t been any serious discussions.”

Meanwhile, members of the state Legislature from the Mahoning Valley said Tuesday they’ve been talking with the owners of one of the state’s existing seven horse racetracks about relocating to this area for the past eight to 12 months.

“It’s easier and quicker to move an established track than [to apply for a license for a new one],” said state Rep. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown, D-60th.

Hagan said the racetrack owners asked that the facility looking to move not be disclosed.

Lertzman said he’s heard that Raceway Park in Toledo was looking to move to Mahoning County.

Officials with Penn National, Raceway Park’s parent company, couldn’t be reached Tuesday by The Vindicator to comment.

As for the Mahoning Valley Development Group’s plans, Fries said no one from the company or its attorneys have spoken to him or any of the five commission members.

John Izzo, the commission’s deputy director, is the only person at the agency who’s communicated with the group.

Izzo said he had a general conversation with Pressman in late July 2009 about a racetrack application.

Izzo said he sent e-mails that year on July 30 and 31, Aug. 12 and Sept. 10 to Pressman with basic information on applying for a license to establish legal betting at a racetrack.

“It’s all been what-ifs,” Izzo said in describing his communication with Pressman.

It wasn’t until Jan. 5 of this year that Izzo said he received an e-mail from Pressman. That e-mail stated Pressman would be calling the next day.

Instead, Izzo said Pat Quinn, a Columbus attorney for the development group, called. The two didn’t speak to each other until last week, Izzo said.

Quinn wants to set up a meeting with the commission to discuss the Valley proposal, Izzo said. A date hasn’t been finalized.

At a Tuesday press conference at Mr. Anthony’s in Boardman, Pressman said his company has “kept the Ohio Racing Commission up to date” on what it’s doing during “frequent discussions.”

“We’re at a very good place with the racing commission,” he added.

Lertzman added that he expects to get a license from the commission by late spring or early summer.

Before the commission could even consider issuing a license, the development group would need to obtain signatures from at least 51 percent of the total number of voters in the last general election from the township in which the racetrack would be located, Fries said.

Lertzman and Pressman have declined to disclose the proposed location of their complex.

Lertzman said Tuesday that the company has an option to buy 200 acres and is working on another option for an additional 200 acres.

When asked about the horse-racing industry in Ohio, Fries said that it is “struggling.”

So why would the development group want to open a thoroughbred track?

The others are failing because they are only racetracks, Lertzman and Pressman said.

The company is interested in as much as 700 acres, Lertzman said, for a racetrack, resort, golf course, a 400-bed hotel with a 2,000-seat arena on the first floor, an indoor water park and possibly a casino with slot machines.

There have been attempts to legalize slot machines in Ohio, but they’ve all failed.

The two said they have investors, including three major companies, lined up to fund the $300 million project, but declined Tuesday to disclose the names. The names should be made public in about three months, Lertzman said.

Also, when asked about their experience with projects of this magnitude, neither gave a direct answer.

Lertzman said he spent 35 years in a family business that shut down other businesses, specifically mentioning Ames, a former department-store chain.

Pressman said he was a podiatrist who stopped practicing about 16 or 17 years ago, then spent time as a stay-at-home father and got into the development business about four or five years ago.

The two were part of a group that backed a failed 2008 ballot effort to bring a Las Vegas-style casino to Clinton County in the southwest part of the state.

They also said they won’t ask for any public money or tax breaks to help with this project.

If successful, the complex would provide jobs for 1,500 to 2,000 people on a permanent basis, they said.

There would also be more than 1,000 construction jobs.


1YSUGRAD(134 comments)posted 5 years ago

Looks like Michael Moore, oh wait, it IS Michael Moore, he's making a documentary titled "How Many Times Can You "F" With The People of The Mahoning Vally Before They Snap?"

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21970mach1(1005 comments)posted 5 years ago

So, two people with a company knows anything about have a secret location to build a huge resort, even though the state knows next to nothing about it. Then Bob Hagan says he has secret race track that wants to relocate here.


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3unhappyvoter1(87 comments)posted 5 years ago

would not go to the media until i had all information to give. this valley will laugh in your face.

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4trailblazer(7 comments)posted 5 years ago

lying to the county AGAIN!! just stop!

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5UnionForever(1470 comments)posted 5 years ago

They know Mahoning Valley needs jobs badly and this is another lie about bringing jobs to the valley. They are NOT to be believed!

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6author50(1121 comments)posted 5 years ago

Is Hagan bringing a Communist Themed Racetrack here?

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7Lifes2Short(3879 comments)posted 5 years ago

They even look like 2 shady characters. lmao

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8republicanRick(1578 comments)posted 5 years ago

At Hagan's racetrack there would be no winners or losers -- all horses would finish exactly even. Beers would cost $10.00 unless you're in a union -- they would pay only $ 1.00. Railroad employees would get free food and cots to take naps. Jockeys that whip their horses would be fined and required to attend anger management classes.

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9captdinger(110 comments)posted 5 years ago

Maybe the secret location is at the Y'town airport right between the plane factory and the transport balloon factory. I agree with YSUGRAD.

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10mrblue(1170 comments)posted 5 years ago

Again, why so many secrets? Makes one wonder how legit this project is. Are we getting smoke blown up our arses again? Has Hagan gotten a hair cut yet?

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11apontiko5(2 comments)posted 5 years ago

call me crazy and maybe too trusting, but why not give it a go? they are asking for NOTHING! yes, I agree we need better (more reputable) industries but maybe this will draw attention (hopefully positive) that we are a possible area for development. What we need mostly is to bring people here and keep them here! ...this may be a way to do so.

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12Tigerlily(509 comments)posted 5 years ago

Um, I can't see that Hagan has anything to do with this from this article, other than that the Vindy asked him if it's possible for a racetrack with a license to move locations, and he said yes.

I know you hate him, but at least you should hate accurately, instead of making connections where there are none.

Last night Hagan released a statement saying he didn't believe in this scheme either. He said, "Where's the beef?"

So. You know. Wipe the hate out of your eyes before assigning connections where there are none.

OR: learn to read better.

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13Tigerlily(509 comments)posted 5 years ago

In regards to the racetrack looking to relocate, it seems Hagan has a connection to THAT, but not to these particular gentlemen.

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14walter_sobchak(2507 comments)posted 5 years ago

Time will tell whether this guy only looks like Michael Moore or has the same bull $h!t as him. If they can line up private financing to do this project, let them give it a try. VLT's are going to have to be put in race tracks or the industry will disappear from Ohio. Revenues need to be increased to better maintain the facilitites and to offer larger purses for the races. Maybe Bobby (keep up that left hand) Hagan is pi$$ed because someone was having a parade and he was not asked to be in it and lead it!

And, Michael Moore may be one of the biggest horse's arses in this country but "Canadian Bacon" is a great movie!

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15JME(801 comments)posted 5 years ago

"Maybe Bobby (keep up that left hand) Hagan is pi$$ed because someone was having a parade and he was not asked to be in it and lead it!"

I was thinking the same thing. It seems Hagan is upset that Michael Moore and buddy won't let him get the credit. Maybe they can buy Bob a beer at The Lemon Grove.

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16leftyompton4life(79 comments)posted 5 years ago

I just put in my application....

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17Silence_Dogood(1603 comments)posted 5 years ago

It will be built right next to the Dirigible plant.

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18ytowhoh330(89 comments)posted 5 years ago

Hagan is just ticked cause he's out of the loop. And not getting his pockets lined!

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19InColumbiana(63 comments)posted 5 years ago

Thistledown was just bought in May 2010 by Harrah's Entertainment for half of what they optioned it for in 2009. Thistle has some really good horsemen, but the track (while better than WV's track) is older, lacking repairs and is buried in a residential area (so expansion would be hard). The Cleveland casino is going downtown (not at the track).

Since they saved @45million on the purchase price and, being a major casino operator, it would make sense for them to move the Thistledown license to YTown and jump into a resort style operation close to I-80.

I thought it was odd that Harrah's Entertainment picked up the track in May 2010 after it was known that Cleveland downtown got the casino, but they had expresed interest in the track since Magna got into trouble.

A move like that would be great for the Thistledown horsemen who are surviving on very low purses. Few would have to move farms or 'relocate' (unlike if the Toledo track came south). It would also position the Casino to compete against the Erie and WV casinos/tracks (both owned by the same group).

From the Harrah's web site: "Harrah's Entertainment, Inc. is the world's largest provider of branded casino entertainment through operating subsidiaries. Since its beginning in Reno, Nevada 70 years ago, Harrah's has grown through development of new properties, expansions and acquisitions, and now owns or manages casino resorts on four continents The company's properties operate primarily under the Harrah's, Caesars and Horseshoe brand names"

Any other track relocating to YTown would be death nail to Thistledown, so I'm hoping for the best for the Thistledown horsemen :-)

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20walter_sobchak(2507 comments)posted 5 years ago

If the rasino were to be built in Mahoning County, say near Lake Milton, there would be no increase in prosecutions, only plea-bargains! :>)

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21Tigerlily(509 comments)posted 5 years ago

Calling Joseph McCarthy, Calling Joseph McCarthy. You left some of your thugs behind when you died. They're here, waiting for you.

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22briant(57 comments)posted 5 years ago


To the both of you: Well said.

BTW, Who in the heck as the money to gamble in Youngstown? Are they expecting tourists? would you fly to Y-town for a track/casino or New York?

I hope it works. At least someone is "trying"...

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23apontiko5(2 comments)posted 5 years ago

fudputer, to you well said!

all this talk about negative crowds...apparently none of you have been down to mountaineer lately. The most threatening person down there is an 80 year old grandma with her fanny pack. I don't know if you've seen the demographics for youngstown lately but it's getting to be an older crowd.

and yes, I agree briant, you probably aren't going to fly to youngstown, but people from the surrounding areas are going to take buses here etc. and gamble their nickels aways....let it happen! you never know, they might stop at the lemon grove and grab something to eat after...

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24Tigerlily(509 comments)posted 5 years ago

My feel is that the project won't happen, but that if it were a smaller scale dream, it could work out. The idea of it being a resort with as many facets to it as they describe makes it a bit out-sized. If they can make it happen, great. But it seems unlikely. If it does happen, I'm sure the local gamblers who travle to West Virginia to throw their money away there, as well as those who travel to Erie PA to throw their money away there, will at least come here instead, closer, to throw their money away here.

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25moneymoney(21 comments)posted 5 years ago

When do the people from Candid Camera jump out of the bushes?

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26Silence_Dogood(1603 comments)posted 5 years ago

You asked "BTW, Who in the heck as the money to gamble in Youngstown?"
You must not go to any grocery stores in Youngstown do you.
If you did you would see the people that have all the money, they are the ones dressed in the finest clothes, talking on the newest addition to the blackberry and iphone line, driving the newest 2010 pink cadillacs.The same ones that hold up the grocery line because they are buying several hundred dollars worth of lottery tickets. And lets not forget those fancy blue and white cards they get from the state of Ohio to pay for all the food .

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27Bigben(1996 comments)posted 5 years ago

openminded -I concur.

The area meaning OH-PA and WV is already saturated. The powers that be already know this.

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28southsidedave(5172 comments)posted 5 years ago

Another moronic idea in the Valley!!!

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