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.”