NORTH RANDALL, Ohio - Thistledown Race Track may eventually move out of North Randall, but the decision announced Wednesday by Rock Ohio Caesars to invest $88 million in the 87-year-old track is the clearest sign yet the move won't be happening soon.
The improvements were announced following an Ohio Racing Commission meeting in Columbus approving transfer of the track's ownership from Caesars Entertainment, which purchased Thistledown in 2010 for $43 million, to the joint venture of Rock Ohio Caesars, which owns and operates the Horseshoe Casino Cleveland.
Work has already begun at the track to transform the main floor of the grandstand into a 57,000 square foot gaming space that will feature 1,150 slot machines or VLTs when it opens in the spring of next year. The Horseshoe by comparison has 2,100 slots.
In addition, plans were also announced for a 60-seat restaurant, two food court offerings and a lounge.
Since hosting its first race in 1925, the North Randall track has weathered its share of ups and downs surviving through the depression, prohibition, World War II, a fire that destroyed the track's clubhouse and grandstand in 1944 and a half dozen ownership changes.
Now the one mile oval and the 128 acres it sits on will see it's facilities upgraded with work scheduled to first improve the track's 2,300 space parking lot along Emery and Warrensville Center roads.
Inside work will feature a complete overhaul of the track's simulcasting operations with state of the art monitors, the creation of a premium seating area and updating mutual windows. In addition, a second lounge will be added and the 500-seat restaurant overlooking the racetrack will also be updated.
The track currently employs 200 people May through November during the live racing season, the transformation into a racino will mean the addition of 300 new jobs according to Marcus Glover, Caesars’ regional senior vice president and general manager of Horseshoe Casino Cleveland.
“Thistledown guests, employees and horsemen are excited about the addition of VLTs to the facility and the resulting increases in attendance and purses that will be generated for live horseracing meets,” Glover said.
As for a future move to the Akron Canton area Rock Ohio Caesars said in a statement that a move "remains an option for the company in the future but neither a decision nor a timeline for a future move has been made."
Thistledown's live racing season ends on November 17, the new racino will open next spring.
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