A plan submitted by Suffolk Downs to state environmental regulators calls for the horse barns in Revere to be relocated to the East Boston side of the property, built out under the existing Grandstand and in new buildings adjacent to the track on the Boston side – a plan that eliminates the previously idea of putting the barns in an off-site location and redeveloping the open land.
The plan, however, is contingent upon Mohegan Sun receiving a casino license from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC).
The plan is also much different than plans outlined to community members and the MGC last fall, when it was announced that horse operations would likely be located off-site and horses would be trucked into the track. That idea isn’t addressed in the newest filing and is now secondary, Suffolk Downs COO Chip Tuttle said.
“Our first choice is to keep the barn areas as close to the racetrack as possible,” he said on Tuesday. “If that doesn’t work out, we’ll look at off-site options. We’re reducing the size of the barn area by consolidating a lot of stables within the existing Grandstand in what is essentially decommissioned space. This plan would be a significant improvement for rainwater and runoff. It’s our first choice. The horsemen have expressed concerns with off-site stabling and we’re trying to honor that concern…It’s definitely preferable to be on-site if we can make it work.”
Tuttle said that Boston Mayor Marty Walsh knows about the plan, and Suffolk Downs expects to begin speaking with him about it soon.
“People on his team know and it’s not a surprise to him,” he said. “We anticipate we’ll be talking to them in the near future.”
Boston Mayor Walsh was not immediately available for comment, as he is at a conference in Washington, D.C.
Tuttle said the barn plan doesn’t rule out the redevelopment of other parts of the Suffolk Downs site.
In the filings, released on Tuesday afternoon in the Environmental Monitor online government publication, Suffolk Downs announced the plan to move the barns to Boston as a way to improve water quality in the Sales Creek and the Rumney Marsh Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC).
“Under current permits, the racehorse facilities north of Sales Creek have the potential to discharge process wastewater into Sales Creek (part of the Rumney Marshes Area of Critical Environmental Concern [ACEC]) during significant storm events,” read the ‘Change of Project Notification’ filing. “This Project will consolidate racehorse and other racing facilities on the Boston portion of the property (thus eliminating racehorse-impacted flows to Sales Creek), reduce the Production Area from which process water may be generated by 80 percent, and reduce impervious area by over five acres. Therefore, the Project will improve water quality in both Sales Creek and the ACEC.”
The crux of the project would involve renovating 200,000 sq. ft. of space on the first and second floor of the existing Grandstand for use as stables and horse support areas. The new Grandstand stables would house 740 horses.
There would also be three new 13,512 sq. ft. horse barns, each containing 42 horse stalls for a total of 126 stalls. Those buildings would be constructed adjacent to the Grandstand, though no specific site was identified and all plans are now just conceptual.
An additional 4,000 sq. ft. quarantine barn would be constructed in the same area, as well as a 720 sq. ft. mortality barn.
The plan also identifies the siting of a 400,000 sq. ft. support area for racing operations. It would include track material storage, a staging area for maintenance equipment and horse trailers, parking for maintenance/stable employees, feed trucks, horse trailers and training/exercise areas for horses.
An accompanying 12,000 sq. ft. racetrack maintenance building will be built adjacent to either the racetrack or Grandstand, according to the filing.
The plan indicates any wastewater from the animal holding areas, feed areas and barn areas will drain to the ground or be piped into the Boston Water and Sewer Commission (BWSC) sewer system.
Included in the plan is the renovation and interior improvements to the existing Clubhouse/Link building, which covers some 20,000 sq. ft., so that the first floor of the Grandstand can be transformed into a horse barn. All of the accessory functions on the first floor now would be consolidated into the renovated Clubhouse.
“The Project involves abandoning the existing Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) located on land to be leased to Mohegan Sun Massachusetts, renovating the grandstand to accommodate horse stalls, and some other elements intended to improve racetrack operations on the Boston portion of the property,” read an overview of the project.
If Mohegan Sun were to get the Casino License, Suffolk Downs indicated that it would like to begin construction in July 2014, complete site improvements and Grandstand renovations in April 2015 and complete the maintenance building in August 2015.
The plan to locate the horse barns to East Boston was a new revelation when released on Tuesday, as previous plans spoken about last fall to the MGC called for off-site horse barns. Suffolk Downs COO Chip Tuttle told the MGC in late November that the track was in “very real” negotiations that could lead to relocating the barns and training areas off site.
“The use of off-site stabling and training centers is fairly common practice at East Coast racing venues,” he said at that time.
Initial reactions were hard to come by.
Celeste Meyers of No Eastie Casino said the plan proves that there will be impacts on East Boston with a Revere casino.
“This is just another prime example of how a casino at Suffolk Downs will impact East Boston despite claims to the contrary. It also illustrates the reality that this is a Suffolk Downs Casino plan with all of the key players still intact despite the Mohegan Sun header on the application. Naturally this raises concerns that Suffolk Downs – via the steps they have taken to maintain the details of the application as confidential, may have some lofty and potentially detrimental plans for the East Boston side of the property that will have further far reaching negative impacts. It seems that the developers are doing their darndest to hide the reality that their goal is to guarantee that East Boston winds up with the crap end of the deal.”