By Susan Tebben
The start of construction at the Austintown racino will begin almost immediately, according to officials.
As soon as the Ohio Racing Commission approved the license transfer Wednesday from Beulah Park in Grove City to the Hollywood Slots at Mahoning Valley Race Course in Austintown, local officials and representatives from Penn National Gaming already were discussing the next steps.
For Penn National, the bidding process can begin for construction work and materials.
“We now have the opportunity to immediately re-engage the construction process,” said Steve Snyder, senior vice president of corporate development.
According to former Austintown zoning inspector Darren Crivelli — who will work on a part-time basis with Austintown while he is the Boardman Township zoning inspector — contractors “would like to be” pouring footers in about three weeks.
“They still have some cut and fill work to do, but that’s the plan,” Crivelli said.
The township now will await a $1 million share of the money that it will receive from the transfer of the license. Penn National has agreed to pay the state a $75 million relocation fee and $50 million license fee for the Austintown project, plus pump another $125 million into construction of the facility.
Along with awaiting the money, Austintown will start work to improve its infrastructure in anticipation of a large influx of people, according to township Trustee Jim Davis.
Township trustees “are going to have to sit down and discuss what the next steps will be to improve our infrastructure and do our due diligence,” Davis said.
Davis told the racing commission at previous meetings that the racino is an important attraction for other businesses, and the first of two hotels he said would be coming to the area has submitted plans to the zoning office.
A zoning permit was approved for Candlewood Suites, which is planning to move to Austintown behind the Holiday Inn Express on Cerni Place, according to Crivelli.
Another hotel chain has also submitted plans to locate to the area and Crivelli said it hopes to begin the construction process by the end of the summer.
As the process continues, Penn National will also start looking at applications for employees of the facility. Up to 1,000 jobs could be created. Workers who want to transfer from the Beulah Park facility will be able to request transfer, but the company is looking close to the business as well.
“We want to hire locally,” said Eric Schippers, senior vice president of public affairs for Penn National.