Closing of Fair Meadows was news to Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission
BY KEVIN CANFIELD World Staff Writer
Saturday, November 03, 2012
11/03/12 at 7:33 AM
The executive director of the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission said Friday that the commission was never informed about Tulsa County officials' decision to stop running live horse races at Fair Meadows Racetrack.
"I am extremely disappointed that the Horse Racing Commission had to read about such a dramatic revelation in the press," Tino Rieger said late Friday afternoon. "To this moment, the racing commission has not received formal or informal notification of the turn of events."
The Tulsa County fair board voted unanimously - and without comment - Thursday to sign a multiyear naming-rights agreement with the Muscogee (Creek) Nation that includes a provision in which the fair board agrees not to operate a live racing meet at the racetrack.
Rieger said the decision is a significant blow to Oklahoma's horsemen, noting that about a third - or $2 million - of purse funds they receive statewide each year will no longer be available.
"Obviously, we're disappointed at losing more opportunities and even more so ... the tribal fund money that was available for purses," Rieger said.
The commissioner also questioned an earlier public statement made by Expo Square President and CEO Mark Andrus that seemed to indicate the fairgrounds was committed to maintaining its agreement with the Tulsa- area tribes.
The deal - which was contingent on Fair Meadows' running 400 live races a year - provides $2 million a year to the fairgrounds in addition to the purse money.
In a Jan. 28, 2012, Tulsa World article, Andrus is quoted as saying: "Expo Square will certainly do nothing that would jeopardize that revenue stream from the Indian compact."
"And here we are in November and he killed the deal," Rieger said.
Andrus said the statement referred to his commitment to not sacrifice any Expo Square revenue.
"And this new partnership with the Muscogee (Creek) Nation allows us to not only not sacrifice any of Expo's revenue but also to increase that revenue stream," Andrus said.
Rieger made his remarks just hours after Creek Nation Principal Chief George Tiger said negotiations with the fairgrounds began in late January or February.
Tiger also said that the leaders of the Cherokee and Osage tribes were aware of the possible deal before it was made public.
Speaking at a news conference at the tribe's headquarters in Okmulgee, Tiger said he saw Osage Nation Principal Chief John Red Eagle last week and "he had a big smile on his face that told me everything was going to be OK. And I am sure that (Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill) Baker felt the same way this morning."
Fair Meadows Racing Director Ron Shotts said that neither he nor the fair board meant any disrespect to the racing commission.
"We didn't have a deal done" until late Wednesday, Shotts said.
"It has gone back and forth for months."
The naming rights deal calls for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation to pay $1.44 million a year to place its name on the fairgrounds' massive exposition center - currently called the QuikTrip Center.
"When we came in as an administration, we felt it important that we establish good working relationships by collaborations, and we felt like this fit what we wanted to do," Tiger said.
He added that the tribe has no plans to construct a casino on the fairgrounds property.
"I want to say with emphasis that Muscogee Creek Nation will not be building a casino on that site," Tiger said.
Terms of the deal
The Tulsa County fair board - also known as the Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority - voted unanimously Thursday to sign a naming rights agreement with the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. Here are the major terms of the deal:
Beginning in January, the tribe will pay the fairgrounds $120,000 a month, or $1.44 million a year, to put its name on the 448,400-square-foot event center currently called the QuikTrip Center.
According to the contract, the QuikTrip Center will be renamed the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Center.
The agreement runs through 2019 but will stay in effect beyond that as long as the state's Indian tribes have a gaming compact with the state's other race tracks.
Creek Nation has the first right to propose over the next two years a plan for development of the land now occupied by Drillers Stadium.
Original Print Headline: Racing shutdown was news to state commission
Kevin Canfield 918-581-8313