LEXINGTON — An economic boon for Laurel County, or a pathway leading to destruction.

Both sides were presented Monday during a public meeting at the Kentucky Horse Park on the proposed quarter-horse race track that some investors are trying to build in Laurel County.

Members of Sprint Racing Partners, the faction attempting to gain a license to build the track in Laurel County, presented their plan to members of the Kentucky Racing Authority subcommittee in a meeting that lasted two hours.

While many in attendance were in favor of the new race track, there was a small group of clergy from various churches in Laurel County that made the trip to voice their displeasure.

“We don’t need horse racing down here,” said Brother Joe Moberly, president of the Crusade for Christ Ministries.

“These people don’t have to deal with the wives whose husbands have lost their jobs because of gambling and alcohol. That’s where the church will have to step in. We need to look out for the children of the area.”

Roy Faulconer, director of the Laurel River Baptist Association, echoed Mob-erly’s statements.

“We oppose it,” Faulconer said. “All one needs to do is read the article in Saturday’s Lexington Herald Leader. It says more than anything we can say.”

Faulconer was referring to an article that appeared on the front page of Saturday’s edition, “Indiana gaming license given up.” In the article, it states that R.D. Hubbard, one of the seven investors in Spring Racing Partners, surrendered his Indiana gaming license and can’t ever reapply after an incident involving prostitutes at an event at Belterra Casino in Indiana.

“Every person who dies, their blood is going to be on your hands, and you can’t wipe it off,” said Russell DeSpain, pastor of London Baptist Church. “This will be a curse upon Laurel County. They are going to suck money out of Laurel County. We don’t need them here.”

“I respect you and appreciate your thoughts,” Jones told those who oppose the track. “I graduated from a Christian College, as did my two children. My grandfather was an elder in his church. My kids have been around race tracks and drinking all their lives, and they don’t do it. I would think you already have a problem in your area. To say we won’t give back is very prejudging of us.”

Despite these protests, the presentation by Sprint had many people throwing their support behind the group.

Troy Rudder, mayor of London, Judge-Executive Lawrence Kuhl, the Tourism Commission, Chamber of Commerce, the London-Laurel County Industrial Development Authority, and the Kentucky Quarter Horse Association all sent letters supporting the building of the track.

“I thought it was an outstanding presentation,” Kuhl said. “And all the comments were good. I respect all of the people who were here, and they’ve got the right to voice their opinions. I respect them for it.”

“This is not only good for Laurel County, but for the surrounding region,” said Ken Harvey of the Tourist Commission. “This will bring a lot of people in. It will fill a lot of needs.”

Also offering their support was the Kentucky Quarter Horse Racing Association, the Harness Horse Racing Association, and other members of the horse business in Kentucky.

Sprint first started thinking about building a facility in 2005, and back in April, filed their application for a license. They looked at both Whitley and Laurel County, and eventually decided on Laurel for several different reasons.

“We looked at the state to see where a track could be located, and the only hole was in the southeastern corner on I-75,” said Bruce Rimbo, one of the partners in Sprint Racing. Other tracks are located in Florence, Prestonsburg, Franklin, Paducah, Henderson, Louisville and Lexington.

“We looked at the population of Laurel, which is 57,300, compared to 38,000 in Whitley,” Rimbo said. “And Laurel is expected to grow to over 71,000 by 2025. Plus, income is higher in Laurel, and there are more vehicles between the London exits than between the Corbin exits. Plus, Laurel has more hotel rooms, and some of the top attractions in the state, including the World Chicken Festival, Daniel Boone Motorcross, the Wood Expo, the London Dragway, an archery tournament and Tour de London. It was no choice but to go with Laurel County.”

Rimbo also went over their entire plan, from the ground up, noting that Spring Racing Partners have over 200 years experience between its seven members, which include Dr. Edward Allred, Paul Blanchard, R.D. Hubbard, John T.L. Jones Jr., Brent Rice, Chris Sullivan and Rimbo. Many of the partners have owned or been partners in race tracks around the country.

“We wanted to stay near I-75, and Hwy. 80 West (where the track is proposed to be built) leads to Somerset, and there’s a lot of traffic in the summer on 80,” Rimbo added. “Also, the utilities are already on our side of the road, so that will save time and money.”

Rimbo admitted they couldn’t make a go by racing just 13 days out of the year. That’s why they want to make it an entertainment complex, which could host concerts and other events, including barrel racing, cutting horse, performance riding and pleasure riding, harness racing and Arabian/Appaloosa racing.

“We know how to do that,” Rimbo said, referring to concerts. “In New Mexico, we’ve had concerts with Willie Nelson, Toby Keith, John Michael Montgomery, Steppenwolf, John Anderson, Glen Campbell and Creedence Clearwater Revisited. We sold over 120,000 tickets for that concert alone. We’ve done 30 concerts in the last six years, so we know how to do this.”

Rimbo said that they plan on racing in late July through Labor Day, on Saturday, Sundays and holidays. “But we will work with the commission. We think there is a market for quarter horse racing in Kentucky.”

Brent Caldwell, an attorney who has been working with the group, said that the lawsuit filed by a Whitley Co. group that was denied a license is not Sprint Racing Partners.

“That’s not us, that’s another group,” Caldwell noted. “That lawsuit is on appeal with the commission for turning down their license. But if you decide to make a decision and award us the license, we have no problem in making it conditional on the outcome of the Whitley County lawsuit. We are more than willing to work with you on that case. If they lose, grant us the license. If they win, we will go one on one and let the authority decide who has the better presentation.”

“We won’t be making any type of decision today,” said Larry Telle, chairman of the authority subcommittee. “We will continue to review the application, but we will not be in a position to make a decision by the next authority meeting.”

Dennis Hammonds, a pastor and business owner in Laurel County, told the commission that their job is not only to decide if the license should be granted, but if it would be a good fit for Laurel County.

“How does it benefit us?” Hammonds asked. “Is the detriment bigger than the benefit? We think it is. They are good businessmen; that’s not the question. The question is, do we want it in Laurel County? I don’t think the majority of people in Laurel County want it.”

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