The Meadows dedicates barnsPosted June 8, 2012
By Michael Bradwell
MEADOW LANDS - The Meadows Racetrack & Casino dedicated five new horse barns at the racetrack Thursday that racing officials said are a vast improvement over the 49-year-old barns they replaced.
The improvements at the North Strabane Township track were privately funded by The Meadows' parent company, Las Vegas-based Cannery Casino Resorts, which spent $6.25 million in fulfilling a requirement of Pennsylvania Act 71, the slots bill that included provisions for helping to preserve the state's horse racing industry.
"This project represents the largest capital investment in the backside of the track in the last 50 years," said Mike Jeannot, president of Meadows Racing.
During a brief tour of one of the new barns, Tom Leasure, The Meadows' race secretary, pointed out a structure he said had better lighting and ventilation than the old barns.
"Air circulation is huge" in helping move dust away from horses and keeping them healthy, he said.
"The people who work here tell us it's the difference between night and day" from the old barns, Leasure said, noting the new construction includes either a bathroom or laundry facility at each barn, making them more efficient for the people who work there.
Recalling a July 2001 barn fire at The Meadows that killed 28 horses, Leasure said, "A lot of consideration was directed to fire prevention" in the new structures.
During brief remarks from various officials, state Rep. Brandon Newman, D-North Strabane, said the project is an investment in the local economy.
"It's local jobs, local stables, local people making a living wage," he said.
However, a former horse owner and driver who continues to work with trainers at The Meadows complained later Thursday the track is charging owners $100 per month per stall in boarding fees.
"We helped build the original barns," said Cliff Cochran, who said horsemen weren't charged rent in the original barns. He said the monthly charge is a detriment to owners with only two or three horses, stating the cost would eventually force them out of the racetrack.
Jeannot acknowledged horsemen have been paying the monthly rent for the past couple of years, following an agreement that was reached when the horsemen asked for additional improvements to the backside area.
Jeannot said earlier Thursday under Act 71, slots licensees were directed to spend a total of $6.25 million of private equity on backside improvements over a 10-year period. He said The Meadows, working with the Meadows Standaradbred Owners Association and the Meadows Horsemen's Group, chose to accelerate the investment over a seven-year period.
He added that owners who board their horses at other area barns, such as the new horse barn at the Washington County Fairgrounds, also pay rent.
"Demand for stalls is pretty strong," across the area, he said.
Copyright Observer Publishing Co.