ROCK SPRINGS — Three weekends of live horse racing are coming to Sweetwater County, but local facilities are becoming dilapidated and racing organizers are searching for a revenue source to address the problem.
Wyoming Horse Racing returns to the Sweetwater Events Complex starting Aug. 23. Other dates include Aug. 24, 25 and 31 and Sept. 1, 7 and 8. Post times are at 4 p.m. on Fridays and 1 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
President Eugene Joyce told the Rocket-Miner in May that while Wyoming Horse Racing is pleased to have racing this year, events for 2020 and beyond are in jeopardy if the Events Complex’s facilities cannot be upgraded.
Joyce and Events Complex Executive Director Larry Lloyd came before the Sweetwater County Commission at the Aug. 6 meeting. Joyce gave a report on the past, present and future of horse racing. He pointed to the successful private/public partnership in the past between Wyoming Horse Racing and Sweetwater County government, but said that capital improvements must be done in order to move forward.
Lloyd said his purpose in addressing the commission was to draw attention to the problem. He also plans to make the same pitch to the city of Rock Springs and Green River.
The Rocket-Miner reported in May that horse racing has brought $1.355 million directly to the city of Rock Springs and more than $1.355 million directly to Sweetwater County. Money comes from historic horse racing in Rock Springs and now Green River as well as live horse racing.
An option brought up at the commission meeting was diverting some of that revenue in order to upgrade and maintain facilities used for horse racing.
Lloyd noted at the commission meeting that the facility used for horse racing is “becoming dilapidated.” Problems include no race office and no rooms for jockeys. Currently, jockeys have to go to an old dilapidated trailer with no restroom facilities, Joyce said. Although there are many barns at the Events Complex, they are not appropriate for race horses. Joyce said the facility needs to be brought up to industry norms.
Improvements needed to the Grandstands include upgrading bleacher seats; renovating the concession area and hood system; providing a wind break to the west side; and adding a new detached bathroom behind uncovered bleachers, permanent horse paddock, mats or rubber surfacing in horse stall alleyways and fencing along the horse path to the stalls.
Commission Chairman Wally Johnson said that in his opinion it would be possible to send some of the money received from Wyoming Horse Racing back to the Events Complex for racing improvements. He said horse racing has been well received in the community, and that improvements made would also benefit other events at the facility.
With horse racing continuing to take place locally “the dollars are staying in Sweetwater County,” Johnson said. Otherwise, people interested in horse racing as well as their money would go to places like Wendover and Mesquite, he said.
Commissioner Randy “Doc” Wendling asked Joyce if he was thinking about a percentage or a set dollar amount of revenue received by the county.
Joyce said he likes the idea of a certain percent for a set number of years. He said that either method would work and that receiving just a couple thousand dollars per year from each government entity would make a huge difference. The details could be figured out at a future work session as well as a list of facility upgrade priorities.