Charles Town Race track renovations underway

March 18, 1997


Staff Writer, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The sound of hammering filled the Charles Town Races Tuesday afternoon instead of the pounding of hooves.

Charles Town Races Vice President Roger Ramey looked around at the nearby workmen in their hard hats. Piles of rubble covered the floor of one large hall where the new video lottery game room will be located.

"Six months from now you won't recognize this place," Ramey said.

Charles Town Races had hoped to open by April 2 but Ramey said work had fallen behind.

Legal action involving the video lottery machines and obtaining the necessary permits for the renovation have slowed the project down, but he believes those problems are over, he said. The Jefferson County Planning Commission is working closely with the race track, he said.


The track is expected to open in late April and video lottery machines probably will be installed about a month or two later, Ramey said.

The race track will start with 400 video lottery machines, but he expects the number of machines will expand to about 1,000 later in the year, he said.

The renovation work is expected to cost from $16 million to $20 million.

When the crowds return, they will see more extensive changes in the facility than just a face lift, he said.

The video lottery machines will mostly be on the clubhouse side while the wagering for the live racing and the simulcasting will be conducted on the grandstand side, Ramey said.

There also will be an expanded number of live races and in the number of simulcast events covered, he said.

Work also is taking place in the horse barns, with new roofs being put on and other improvements, including landscaping, Ramey said.

The track will employ about 400 people directly when it reopens, he said. About 1,000 people work at the track as either horse owners, jockeys, and other positions.

In addition, many of the local motels and restaurants rely on the crowds attracted to the track, he said.

About 1,700 to 1,800 people a day attended racing at the track last year before it closed. With video lottery, the crowds are expected to grow significantly, Ramey said.

"All I can say from our point of view it's good to see all the activity going on," said Joe Graham, the track's official starter who currently is working with the maintenance department in renovating the facility.

About 100 construction workers and others are renovating the facility but the number is expected to grow to 300 in about two weeks, officials said.

On Monday, the West Virginia Racing Commission and the state racing association named the three men who will serve as track stewards, the officials who regulate the track and make sure the racing rules are followed, said Lois Graham, executive secretary of the West Virginia Racing Commission.

The Charles Town stewards are: Rodney Peters, of Charles Town, Frank Utterback Jr., of Kearneysville, W.Va., and Lloyd R. Lotts, of Ranson, W.Va., Graham said.

Peters and Utterback were appointed by the state racing commission. Lotts was appointed by the racing association, she said.

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