New Mexico Racing Commission Chairman Jack Cole says that horse breeding has exploded in New Mexico. They simply don't have enough tracks for the number of horses the racing business is attracting. That's why they're building what they are calling, a 'diamond in the desert'.
Ruidoso Downs owners are expanding the sport of horse racing to another part of New Mexico. Ground breaking for Zia Park, a horse racetrack and casino, drew in a large crowd Friday. Even a few folks from Brownfield showed their support. Gib and Jackie McClanahan have been training race horses for 57 years and race them in Ruidoso. "Are you excited about this new track?"
"Sure, absolutely! We're going run a Philly the first day of racing," the McClanahan's said.
Roughly 110 miles southwest of Lubbock, these 640 acres are covered with thorny mesquite trees. But by the end of the year, Zia Pak will hold more than 3,000 people and have 750 slot machines for gambling.
The New Mexico Racing Commission says it will be a $43 million first class facility. However, General Manager Rick Baugh says the 'diamond' took a while to polish. "The governor prior to Governor Richardson stopped the Racing Commission from awarding us the license almost two years ago," Baugh told us. Baugh says the previous governor didn't support the race track. Now that there's a new administration, things have changed.
"This has been a long time coming. Years of hard work, bills, hearings, arm twisting, persuasion. All those things that go into making this happen," said Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish.
So why in Hobbs, New Mexico? It's a town with a population of 30,000 people and not known for its' tourism. "We wanted a track in the southern part of the state that could run during the winter time," said Cole.
Cole adds that Hobbs is a prime location because it's closer to West Texans.
This new race track and casino will create more than 200 jobs for people in Hobbs. Horse racing dates have not been decided, but it will likely be during the winter months.