|Greyhound racing plan gets cold shoulder from owners of vacant track|
|Written by Todd MIshler/Walworth County Sunday|
|Friday, 04 May 2012 10:00|
Dog races were held for about 15 years at Geneva Lakes Greyhound Track in Delavan, but the property has been mostly idle since late 2005. A new proposal eyes a return to racing at the site, but property owners NRB Land say that won’t happen. Instead, developers and investors are being sought for a commercial, retail, residential or combined development on the track property and adjacent land. Photo by Terry Mayer/staff.
DELAVAN — It’s no secret that the sluggish economy has tied the hands of NRB Land during its six-year effort to develop the former Geneva Lakes Greyhound Track.
But even though the company in McHenry, Ill., doesn’t know yet what will happen with the property, spokesman Andrew Teegen knows one thing that won’t happen.
(The print version of the story is HERE, along with the complete May 6, 2012 Walworth County Sunday.)
Teegen said the dog track, which was open from May 1990 through November 2005, would never open again as a gambling venue.
“Things had been pretty quiet, and then this springs up out of the blue,” Teegen said of a proposal that a Kenosha racing enthusiast began circulating in early April, one seeking potential Walworth County investors to revive an industry at the venue. “You would think that they would contact the property owner before doing something like this. It was kind of weird and out of left field, to say the least. But NRB never purchased that facility with the intent of bringing dog racing back.”
NRB Land is a development facilitator, specializing in acquiring, rezoning and improving properties for future development or redevelopment. It bought the former greyhound track property, at Wisconsin Highway 50 and Interstate 43, on March 31, 2006, for just under $8 million. It then purchased the adjacent property — giving it nearly 200 acres of land — in June 2006 for $6.5 million.
Teegen, the land development and acquisitions coordinator, said owners continue to seek the right combination of commercial, retail and/or residential developers or investors before presenting any serious plan to local and area government officials or stakeholders.
“We’ve had a number of smaller, single-use people or places who’ve come to us saying they would like to buy this corner or that corner, but that is inconsistent with what we want to do,” Teegen said. “The only reason NRB bought the building was because it has the space and facilities to be used as something else. It’s not that old and is in good shape, and that’s why we’ve kept a part-time superintendent on site to keep up the utilities and general maintenance.
“It’s an 11,000-square-foot facility with thousands of parking spots available, so we’re hoping to bring in more retail and commercial versus residential,” Teegen added. “But because it’s such a large piece, the property would involve four, five or six uses and have to be developed in multiple phases. The main thing is we’re not going to go to the city or county in chunks. You have to have the entire infrastructure in place and a master plan for the whole area.”
The property has several important advantages and selling points: It is located in a high-visibility area and it’s near the reopened and renovated Lake Lawn Resort.
Delavan City Administrator Denise Pieroni saw Mayor Mel Nieuwenhuis’ copy of the letter he received from the United Greyhound Racing member.
She said the city is willing to consider any legitimate option to get a tenant or tenants in the facility and on the rest of the property, but Pieroni added that the dog racing effort doesn’t qualify.
“The city would love to see an appropriate reuse of the property, but we haven’t heard about anybody coming forward with a complete proposal,” Pieroni said. “From our perspective, it’s a great piece of property. But with this economy, that means a lot of undeveloped acres sitting there. It has many advantages with the views of Delavan Lake, being next to Lake Lawn, the great access to I-43 and the significant shopping options in that area.
“But it all comes down to what the return would be to the city versus the cost,” Pieroni added. “Nobody’s been knocking down our doors.”
Walworth County Economic Development Alliance Executive Director Mike Van Den Bosch also received a copy of the letter and said he doesn’t think the idea will fly either. However, his organization definitely hopes that something positive will happen with the property soon.
“In terms of WCEDA having any knowledge of interest or activity, no, we have not heard anything,” Van Den Bosch said. “In regards to the letter specifically and the concept of reopening a racetrack, I am not aware of any conversation between WCEDA and the city, or specifically on the city’s part for that matter, of any type of support of a reopened dog track. I know from our perspective it looks like greyhound racing has been on the decline for some time, and so we never looked at it as a viable option.
“Obviously, WCEDA supports the redevelopment and reutilization of that facility to the benefit of the local, county and regional economy,” Van Den Bosch said.
Teegen said that NRB Land remains hopeful that the many pieces to the complicated puzzle will come together.
“When we bought it we understood that it could take time, but nobody predicted the level of the (economic) crash, so it’s been frustrating,” Teegen said. “Lake Lawn coming back has helped put this back on the map and is a definite plus for us. And I’m sure public officials have high hopes because it would help them to have this site back on the tax and real estate rolls. Our No. 1 priority remains having this property absorbed by new or reused development.”
Dee Jay said:
|Last Updated on Friday, 04 May 2012 10:19|