The Downs at Albuquerque's new 25-year racino deal has been at the center of controversy since it was awarded last year. One change in the new lease transfers management of the barnyard area from the Downs to the state. Click here for the video.
In December, the state Board of Finance approved the new lease, despite the Downs' history of missed payments and shoddy management.
The barnyard area, part of 45 acres of the State Fair racetrack and casino area that the Downs isn't responsible for anymore, was in dilapidated condition when SFR toured it earlier this summer. The Downs had been responsible for its upkeep for years.
Expo New Mexico (the State Fair's official name) spokesman Michael Henningsen calls the area "super-prime real estate" that the fair got back. He adds that the Downs pays more rent for less land now (the bulk of the Downs' revenue will come from a new casino its constructing in the area).
"We've suddenly got another 45 acres back there that could be made available to lease a Cabella's or Bass pro Shops should the interest arise," he writes in an email to SFR. "And a lot can happen in 25 years."
But the barnyards need serious repair before any of that can happen, which will now be done at the expense of the state. Henningsen hints that the area's condition is improving and writes: "You probably ought to take another look at the barns."
SFR visited the barnyards in June on a tour guided by State Fair Commissioner Charlotte Rode, a vocal opponent of last year's Downs deal. Below is a video of that tour.
This week's cover story explores how whole deal went down. The article hits newsstands (and sfreporter.com) Wednesday.