Drag Race Strip Advances, Horse Racing Tracks Remain in Uncertainty | News
Whether it’s boats, horses or hot rods, the US Virgin Islands has a rich racing history.
With drag racing set to resume, speakers and lawmakers at Tuesday’s Senate Committee on Youth, Sports, Parks and Recreation hearing in St. Croix were “frustrated” with the lack of development observed in the territory’s two dilapidated racecourses.
Caribbean Drag Racing Association Vice President Larry Jones said the St. Croix drag strip will complete construction in September and the first competitive race will be on Labor Day, but progress will be performed at the Clinton E. Phipps race track in St. Thomas and the Randall. “Doc” James Race Track in St. Croix continues to stall.
Flamboyant Park Horsemen Association treasurer Denis Lynch II said to get a “definite pulse” of how the redevelopment of the race tracks is going would require “revisiting the many failed encounters described as progress that you will help to understand what happened, ready to dismantle the courage of horse racing.
In 2016, VIGL agreed to renovate, operate, and provide racing purses in exchange for permission to operate video game terminals at both tracks, but the deal turned into a federal lawsuit. between the government of the Virgin Islands, Southland Gaming and VIGL Operations LLC which blocked the redevelopment. racetracks for six years.
During a Committee of the Whole hearing held on March 22, the Sixth Legislature approved a bill sent by Governor Albert Bryan Jr. to amend the franchise agreement and allow the government and Southland Gaming to progress in the development of Phipps Racetrack.
Sports, Parks and Recreation Commissioner Calvert White said nearly a year ago in June 2021 that riders with equines housed at James Race Track had been ordered to remove all horses as construction would resume on site.
“Since that time, I have seen little to no movement on the VIGL track. It was my understanding that once we were able to remove all horses from the stables, construction of the facility would continue shortly. time after. I can’t say or speculate why work hasn’t resumed to date,” White said.
Lynch confirmed that the riders had moved the horses “in anticipation of the revised and accepted agreement signed by the Executive Branch”, and said the association had ensured James Racecourse was vacated “to allow for a seamless transition after signing the contract in preparation for the start of construction.
But with no evidence of continued construction since the horses left the facility last year, “the driving factor we’re concerned about is the weather,” Lynch said.
“An irreversible commodity and a luxury that we don’t have. We spent more time in meetings, hearings and negotiations than it would have taken to build the industry standard facility we all hoped for,” added Lynch.
Besides Lynch, other witnesses who did not submit testimony included VIGL and the St. Thomas-St. John Horseman Association because, according to their reasoning, there was no update to provide.
VIGL’s Managing Director of Race Operations, Jason Williams, said: “Legal counsel has advised us not to make any public statements given the sensitive and delicate situation we find ourselves in and the discussions we are having with the ‘administration.”
He added that VIGL is “very pleased with the progress they have made” in the ongoing discussions between the entity and the administration and he “knows that everyone is frustrated, I myself am frustrated. But I also recognize that given the climate, especially with this situation, everyone is really careful. You know how to cross the T’s and dot the I’s and then everything can move forward.
While Jones said there were drag car racers in Puerto Rico, St. Thomas and Antigua “fighting to get their cars here,” there have been few notable efforts to revive the sport of racing horses in Saint-Thomas and even less so in Sainte-Croix.
Lynch said, “As equine professionals, we showcase athletes who provide opportunities for the community to grow its economic footprint, use a platform, and generate entertainment, but we are constantly undermined. What’s next for the island of St. Croix and the riders who are desperately trying to keep the sport afloat? 1,757 days. How long has it been since the professional races took place on the island of Sainte-Croix.
Williams could not give specific timelines or details for any of the projects, but said VIGL had completed a rendering of the James Race Track.
“I had the opportunity to take a look at it,” Williams said, adding that VIGL will meet to discuss the project on Wednesday. “I think it’s something that will be very much appreciated once we can release this, once we can close the discussions that we have and come to that conclusion successfully, I think the community will be very, very pleased of what is on offer.”
Ultimately, lawmakers were upset with Williams’ lack of ability to answer their many questions and questioned whether Williams was under a gag order preventing him from speaking.
With no answers, Senator Kenneth Gittens, a non-committee member, told Williams: “You say we are [VIGL] just comfortable kicking in the street and at no time do you see where you can come to the people of this territory, especially those of St. Croix, and say how progress has been made.
Senator Alma Francis-Heyliger said she was listening carefully to each response, but “no one is really giving me a definitive answer as to why St. Croix is still at a standstill.”
Referring to a previous Committee of the Whole meeting, Francis-Heyliger said senators were informed that race tracks were blocked primarily for pandemic-related reasons.
“So when I hear that there is another discussion and there is a potential delay due to a potential possibility that could happen in the pipeline that you are discussing, you can understand why me as a representative , and the rider, and the other senators are very worried because we get different messages for the same question that we keep asking,” Francis-Heyliger said.
Senator Samuel Carrion, chair of the committee, said, “It is very disappointing both with the apparent lack of progress and the lack of participation from critical parties. I really expected better and the horse racing enthusiasts of the territory deserved better.
Carrion cut the hearing short and added that speakers will again be called upon to come to a future committee hearing, “because today we couldn’t really get answers to the questions we have.”
The senses. Carrion, Francis-Heyliger, Dwayne DeGraff, Franklin Johnson, Javan James Sr., Carla Joseph and Steven Payne Sr. attended the hearing.