August 13th, 2014
Via Buffalo Business First
By James Fink
Fort Erie Race Track may eventually be surrounded by a hospitality and tourism-themed series of developments.
Buffalo developer Carl Paladino hinted as much during a Tuesday briefing that came just hours after he and his investment partners — local business leaders Joel Castle and Joseph Mosey — completed their deal to acquire 338 acres of land just off Queen Elizabeth Way. The land includes the 117-year-old track.
“I like the fact that they are building on what we already have here,” said Fort Erie Mayor Douglas Martin. “They and their plans are giving life back to this grand old lady. To me, this is the beginning of a new era for the track and for Fort Erie.”
While Paladino said development plans are preliminary, he expects whatever is constructed on the land will be hospitality and tourism-based in nature. That would dovetail off the race track and the $400 million Canadian Motorsport Speedway that’s expected to open within the next three years.
Paladino said that more definitive plans will likely be unveiled this fall, if not sooner.
“This isn’t something that’s just sitting there waiting for something else to happen,” Paladino said.
When pressed, Paladino thinks the entire project could be completed within “the next five or six years.”
The development should not only create jobs in Fort Erie, Paladino said he also hopes it is the catalyst for other private sector-fueled projects.
Fort Erie leaders want the track to go back to a 74-date schedule of live races, up from the 37 authorized for this year. They are also pushing leaders in Queen’s Park to allow the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. to bring back slot machines to the track. Fort Erie lost its slot machine operations when OLGC removed them more than two years ago.
“All we are asking for is a level playing field,” said James Thibert, Fort Erie’s economic development chief. “Queen’s Park needs to understand that this track is so much more important to our community than what Woodbine (Track) means to Toronto. We view the track as an anchor for future development projects.”
The Paladino-led development consortium spent the past three years working on the sale agreement with the property’s immediate past owner, Israeli-based Nordic Gaming Corp., and also with Fort Erie officials.
While Paladino said he was open to selling off parcels to other developers, his focus is on the hospitality/tourism project.
“We’re developers,” he said. “We’re not investors. We hit the ground running every morning. People don’t understand just how important the Southern Canadian peninsula is to our city.”
August 13th, 2014
Via Bullet News Niagara
By Kris Dube
FORT ERIE – The Fort Erie Race Track will be complimented with hospitality and tourism-focused development in the next five to six years, according to its new ownership.
At a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, the development team that has recently purchased the 117-year-old track and its surrounding property was introduced to members of the media and local dignitaries.
Specific details were not provided about the new ownership’s vision for the property.
One of the developers involved in the takeover from Nordic Gaming, the track’s previous owner, is Carl Paladino, a well-known and highly respected businessman from Buffalo, N.Y.
He said the new team in place will elaborate further on its vision for the property in the very near future.
“There’s a more specific vision in there – which we’ll give you at a more appropriate time,” said Paladino, who did hint that major one or two-day events are part of the overall scope.
In previous years, the FELRC has leased the track property from Nordic Gaming for $400,000 annually.
The Buffalo-based developer, who ran for Governor of New York in 2010 but was defeated by Andrew Cuomo, said the plan to revitalize on the track’s property doesn’t depend on any other decisions by governments this side of the border – such as the return of slot machines.
“We buy things we feel are right at the time and we feel we can add value to,” said Paladino, the founder and chairman of Ellicott Development Company, a real-estate development company, founded in 1973.
The portions of vacant land that surround the track and its infield total approximately 200 acres and the entire property is 338 acres.
The Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium has operated the racetrack as a non-profit organization for the last five seasons. The provincial government has allocated approximately $7.9 million.
Paladino is partnered with Bill Mosey and Joel Castle, also businessmen from Buffalo, along with David Kompson, a developer with properties in Western New York and several in Fort Erie – mostly commercial plazas on Garrison Road.
He said their plans don’t involve a bailout for the cash-strapped facility, but are designed to support the attractiveness of the FELRC’s operations and create new opportunities for commerce at the site – while also working with the government to create a plan that allows for 74 race dates in a season.
“We want people to be encouraged that things are going to grow here,” he said.
Jim Thibert, chief executive officer of the FELRC and general manager of Fort Erie’s Economic Development and Tourism Corporation said bringing new ownership into the picture – with plans for redevelopment – should create bigger crowds and more money being spent at the historic facility.
“The track will act as an anchor for these developments – it’s a great synergy,” he said.
According to Thibert, seeing slot machines returned to the venue would also be another extraordinary compliment. He also claims it would cost “zero” dollars to reinstall them.
“It costs nothing to put them back,” said Thibert.
Paladino said the opportunities he and his colleagues were attracted to are “unbelievable,” such as the Canadian Motor Speedway, a 65,000-seat, $4 million development still in primary stages of construction only a few kilometres away on 823 acres of land near the Queen Elizabeth Way.
“That’s going to create all kinds of commerce,” said Paladino.
Mayor Doug Martin said he is thrilled to have investors who are familiar with Fort Erie.
“They’re local people that understand the dynamics of the area,” said Martin.
“We see this as a perfect fit for what we want to see done here,” he added.
No sale price has been listed for the track and on Tuesday – Paladino declined to discuss the amount for which it was purchased.
August 13th, 2014
Via Niagara Falls Review
By Tony Ricciuto
The new owners of the Fort Erie Race Track property have big plans for that parcel of land, but no specific details were released on Tuesday when a group of those investors were introduced to the media.
Part of that plan might include a hotel development, but no one is confirming that information including Carl Paladino, one of the new owners who purchased the 338-acre property and adjoining vacant land from the Nordic Gaming Corporation.
“We are hotel developers,” said Paladino, following the press conference, while outside enjoying a hot dog before the start of Tuesday’s races.
Paladino is an American businessman and political activist from Buffalo, New York. He is the founder and chairman of Ellicott Development Company, a real estate development company he founded in 1973.
He is also a Republican and ran for governor of New York in the 2010 election, but lost to Democrat Andrew Cuomo.
The other business partners include Bill Mosey, David Kompson and Joel Castle.
The new investors have not disclosed the purchase price for the property.
One thing that was made clear during Tuesday’s press conference is that the new owners have a passion for the Buffalo-Fort Erie-Niagara area and they have a track record for getting things done.
“We’re developers, we make things, our feet hit the ground running and we also have a passion for our area,” said Paladino, who noted that something needs to be done by governments on both sides of the border so that visitors can get across the Peace Bridge in a more timely fashion.
“It’s a nightmare when people have to sit on that bridge for two or three hours. It’s unacceptable,” he said.”The more people we can get across that bridge the better for everybody.”
Jim Thibert, general manager of the Fort Erie Economic Development and Tourism Corporation, said they can see their market just across the Peace Bridge, they just have to get those visitors across the border.
“We welcome these developers with open arms,” said Thibert, who is also the CEO of the Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium, which operates the horse racing business.
The new owners plan to keep the 117-year-old track open and there should be no direct or immediate effect on the FELRC, which had been leasing the property from Nordic for about $400,000 annually.
Fort Erie Mayor Doug Martin said it’s going to make a difference now that the property has owners who have a connection with this area.
“We see this as the beginning of a new era,” said Martin.
Paladino said if there are any other investors who have any ideas for the property he would like to hear from them.
He noted this project will take a bit of time, possibly in the five year range, but things are definitely going to happen here.
“We have never started anything that we haven’t finished,” he said. “The opportunities here are unbelievable.”
August 12th, 2014
Via Buffalo Business First
By James Fink
The prospect of cross-border development opportunities, coupled with a neighboring auto racing track, piqued the interest of Carl Paladino and his frequent investment partners to purchase a 358-acre Fort Erie parcel, whose anchor tenant is the historic Fort Erie Race Track.
The deal, which was completed today, offers stability for the 117-year-old thoroughbred racing track, but also opens the door for a new wave of private sector-fueled development along the Queen Elizabeth Way and what many consider the psychological center of Fort Erie.
“This is something we’ve been hoping for,” said Fort Erie Mayor Douglas Martin.
Martin and his economic development chief, Jim Thibert, have been working with Paladino and his business partners, Joseph Mosey and Joel Castle, along with Canadian attorney David Kompson since late last year. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The land, including the track, had been owned by Nordic Gaming Corp., a Tel Aviv-based real estate consortium. Nordic Gaming leased the track operations to the not-for-profit Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium, which has run the facility for five years. At the same time, Nordic Gaming also put a “for sale” sign on all 358 acres. The track occupies approximately 168 of those acres.
Ownership uncertainty, together with Torontocentric decisions that favored Woodbine Race Track, cast a heavy cloud over the Fort Erie track. Provincial funding was slashed, and slot machines were pulled from the track. The end result was that Fort Eriewas allocated a 37-date live racing schedule this year, compared with the 74-date season it had typically run in the recent past.
Martin says the Paladino deal will resonant in Toronto’s Queen’s Park, the seat of the provincial government.
“It’s huge,” he said. “It opens the door for a new wave of potential.”
Paladino said he and his partners are working on a number of development scenarios for the land, all of which include keeping the track open and operating. A hint of what the future may hold is expected to be discussed at a Tuesday afternoon press conference Paladino and Fort Erie officials scheduled.
“What we are thinking about is something that will be beneficial to both Buffalo and Fort Erie,” Paladino said. “Yes, it will stabilize Fort Erie’s racing industry.”
The track is one of the largest employers in Fort Erie, with several hundred workers and a projected $27 million annual economic impact.
The deal comes at a time when Fort Erie is seeing several other developments take hold, including a new marina complex along the Niagara River and the $400 million Jeff Gordon-endorsed speedway that’s under construction and expected to open by 2017.
“We saw what was coming to Fort Erie,” Paladino said.
In its role as a border community, Fort Erie has more than 10,000 Buffalo area residents who own property in such hamlets as Waverly Beach, Rose Hill, Crystal Beach and Point Abino.
Martin said he is glad to see the track and surrounding land being shifted from long-distance ownership to a local group.
“Carl and his investors understand the dynamics of the track and what it means to Fort Erie,” Martin said.
It also helps that the Canadian Motor Speedway will be one of Paladino’s new neighbors.
“Having two major attraction in what is virtually the same area bodes well for the town,” Martin said.