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3/21/2012 9:59:00 PM
Yavapai Downs headed to auction April 3
Trustee: 'The sooner a sale can be scheduled, the more likely it is that a horse racing season will result'
Les Stukenberg/The Daily CourierThe facilities for sale include 125 acres housing the one-mile horse racetrack, the 93,328-square-foot grandstands, at least 862 horse stalls and a neighboring car racetrack.
Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier
The facilities for sale include 125 acres housing the one-mile horse racetrack, the 93,328-square-foot grandstands, at least 862 horse stalls and a neighboring car racetrack.
Joanna Dodder Nellans
The Daily Courier

The Yavapai Downs horse racetrack is set to go on the auction block Tuesday, April 3.

U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Redfield T. Baum will take bids at the hearing in the bankruptcy court building in Phoenix at 10 a.m. Bidders must bring $50,000 cashiers checks as security deposits.

The judge agreed Wednesday with the bankruptcy trustee's request to expedite the hearing and schedule it 13 days out instead of the usual required 21 days.

"The sooner a sale can be scheduled, the more likely it is that a horse racing season will result, and the more value the real property has to the estate," the trustee noted in his request.

The track used to open on Memorial Day Weekend.

"A delay in getting the track sold could cause difficulty in getting enough horses up there," Arizona Horseman's Benevolent & Protective Association President Gary Miller said.

Horsemen might be forced to go elsewhere or lose that option, although many would prefer to stay in Arizona, he said.

So far the court has received three bids in letters of intent, but two contained contingencies unacceptable to the court, said George Cunningham, whose Phoenix-based Cunningham & Associates company is conducting the auction with National Commercial Auctioneers.

Court records show the third bid was for $1.5 million, but the records don't reveal the bidder's identity.

The auctioneer's asking price is $12.7 million. The Yavapai County Assessor's Office valued the facilities at $20 million in 2010, then dropped the value to $5.4 million in 2011 when it used a different valuation method at the request of the Yavapai County Farm & Ag Association. The association declared bankruptcy last July after failing to operate its summer 2011 races.

The April 3 high bid must be approved by the judge as well as the U.S. government, since it still holds $14.7 million in loans on the track facilities. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has 48 hours to accept or reject a bid. The original loan was to the Yavapai County Fair Association to build the new track facilities in Prescott Valley 11 years ago.

Cunningham said about a dozen groups have expressed interest in purchasing the track, including track owners from other states, but he couldn't reveal their names.

Turf Paradise General Manager Vincent Francia said Turf Paradise owner Jerry Simms won't be one of the bidders. But Turf is interested in helping get Yavapai Downs back open since that helps get more horses to Turf in Phoenix during the winter. Turf kept the off-track betting sites open in Arizona last summer.

The facilities for sale include 125 acres housing the one-mile horse racetrack, the 93,328-square-foot grandstands, at least 862 horse stalls and a neighboring car racetrack.

Those interested in keeping up with auction information can follow Cunningham's website at

The sale includes contracts and leases outside of the car racetrack, since the bankruptcy trustee rejected that lease. Included is the lease with Yavapai County to use its events center next to the track.

The sale does not include government permits such as the Arizona Department of Racing racetrack permit. The Department of Racing notified the court Feb. 20 that it plans to consider renewing the Yavapai County Fair Association permit at its April 11 meeting. The Fair Association submitted the renewal request back in August 2009 before it turned its assets over to the Farm & Ag Association so the track could get another federal loan.

Gov. Jan Brewer recently appointed Bill Walsh, chief steward/senior supervisor of wagering and officials at ADOR, as its new director after Lonny Powell resigned late last year. Miller said HBPA is happy with the appointment.

The HBPA has been trying to help potential Yavapai Downs buyers but they wanted contingencies, such as making the sale contingent upon the buyer's acquisition of a state racing permit, Miller said.

The HBPA represents the horsemen in Arizona. The track's bankruptcy filing estimated it owes $500,000 to unsecured creditors including $26,036 to horsemen. These creditors are likely to get something out of the sale.

"Our interest as horsemen is to get the track sold and Yavapai running," Miller said. That means jobs for horsemen as well as many others, he noted.

The bankruptcy's court's draft sale agreement says buyers will have a chance to inspect the track property before closing.

The sale agreement also says the buyer won't assume liability for lawsuits against the Farm & Ag Association board for alleged breach of fiduciary duties. Trustee Brian Mullen filed such a suit against the Farm & Ag Association last September.

"If people did something wrong, they need to pay the price," Miller said.

Related Stories:
• Yavapai Downs sells for $3.25M
• Editorial: Wanted: Downs owner with business sense
• Top Stories of 2011 - #1: Long racetrack tradition gallops to a halt

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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, March 26, 2012
Article comment by: Areyou Kiddingme

The track is a tremendous economic boost for PV. It is sad to see so many negative people here. The track, the Toyota Center...the list goes of of venues so many people complain about. These bring dollars to the community. We should be thanful a town as small as PV has such ammenities

Posted: Monday, March 26, 2012
Article comment by: I Agree Let's Go Racing!

I totally agree about the car track and I can't see why that track can't re-open even if the horse track doesn't. It would be great to have it all back open but especially the car racing track. There are many car racers in the Prescott area and that is their sole hobby and they are being deprived of having good family fun. So let's get the track open!

Posted: Saturday, March 24, 2012
Article comment by: Lets go RACING!!

I don't care about the Horse Track... I just want to get the Race Car Track opened back up!

Posted: Friday, March 23, 2012
Article comment by: Them that had control of the track will get control again

This is just another good ole boy internal transfer. Republicans are getting good at pirating a multi-million dollar publicly owned property for their own purposes and stiffing the taxpayer with the bill.

Posted: Friday, March 23, 2012
Article comment by: Diana Ursula

Get copy of Official Bankruptcy discharge papers online. Complete bankruptcy court file for $29.99 only and bankruptcy discharge order for $9.99 only in comfort of you

Posted: Friday, March 23, 2012
Article comment by: Irving Zissman

Moving the horse track from Prescott to PV had nothing to do with the track's failure. Is the economy that much better in Prescott than PV? I think not. Get over it. The facility at Pv is much nicer than the half mile parking lot in Prescott. Bring it back asap and lets see the horses in 2012.

Posted: Thursday, March 22, 2012
Article comment by: G C

I never went to the horse races but I went to plenty of car races at Prescott Valley Raceway. They got the SHAFT and lost a season plus of $. I hope they are included in the future of this acreage ...They didn't deserve what happened to them.

Posted: Thursday, March 22, 2012
Article comment by: Re: Carl Hixon

Mr. Hixon is right. Moving the horse racing to Prescott Valley was a HUGE mistake. It took all the history and soul from what was some of my best memories of horsemanship and competition from it's birthplace in Prescott, to a sham of its former self. No wonder it died a miserable death.

Bring it back to Prescott and it will again thrive.

Posted: Thursday, March 22, 2012
Article comment by: My VIEW

Demolish it all...burn the scrap, and plant

Posted: Thursday, March 22, 2012
Article comment by: Carl Hixon

It will be interesting to see how this all pans out. They should have left it in Prescott. I have many fond memories of Prescott Downs as a kid--a real nostalgic experience it was. Good old fashioned fun, nothing fancy--all different kinds of people in one place. I remember the crowds the traffic jams the aged, rickety facilities the smell of the food wafting through the valet runners who parked your car. And going to eat at El Chaparral at the end of the day...Great times.

Prescott Downs had an excitement and vitality which they should have just left alone--and kept! I hope in the future someone with clout has enough foresight and vision to keep some of the old "institutions" around for future generations to enjoy. Yes, things and times change, but mostly because we as a society make it so.

Posted: Thursday, March 22, 2012
Article comment by: Wacky Tabacky

That's a losing proposition: racing. If someone could get it for dirt cheap it may come back, but they'd better have some capital for improvements, and be ready to bleed some red ink for a few years at least. That track was too much cowbell for an area this size. They had visions of Phoenix racing fans coming up and betting a lot, the racino industry taking off. None of that stuff ever happened and they operated the place on a shoestring budget for years. I used to go several times a year, but not in the last 4 or 5. They should have left it in town as a small quaint track.

Posted: Thursday, March 22, 2012
Article comment by: Skeptical Citizen

This process must be as transparent as possible. Otherwise, as with most other public-private transactions hereabouts, the winning bidder will turnout to be a local economic and political power player. Both the U.S. government (make that taxpayers) and creditors should be fully compensated. The
track's board members and managers acted in an irresponsible way to bring it to this disastrous point.

Posted: Thursday, March 22, 2012
Article comment by: Inde Pendent

The businesses in Prescott Valley and the surrounding area probably don't realize it, but an operating Yavapai Downs means millions of dollars in their cash registers. The city of PV and the local Chamber of Commerce should be working dilligently to aid a successful sale and reopening of the track.

Posted: Thursday, March 22, 2012
Article comment by: Can't Help but Wonder if the $150 mill bid

comes from the same local brain-trust that built the fair grounds and secured the $14 million loan.

Can you image how smart you'd feel if you were able to buy a $14 million complex for $1.5 million, leaving the taxpayers to account for the loss?

It's not intelligence. It only takes knowing the right people and a huge lack of morality.

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