NORTH RANDALL, Ohio - Those looking to play the slots, but maybe don't feel like driving downtown or paying for parking, will soon have another option.
Thistledown Racetrack will become the state's second slots only racino when it opens its doors this spring.
A preview of the $88 million transformation of the 88-year-old track revealed a modern gaming facility on what was the track's once cavernous, 57,000 square foot first floor. The stadium like confines replaced with a warmer more intimate feel allowing the lights of the newly installed 1,150 slots or VLTs to jump out.
"Facility wise we should be ready somewhere towards the beginning of March but then we want to make sure everything's perfect," said Thistledown General Manager Rick Skinner.
Rock Ohio Caesars announced in June their decision to open up a racino at Thistledown's present North Randall location rather than move the track to a location in the Akron/Canton area.
The track sits just 15 miles southeast of the Rock Ohio Caesars' Horseshoe Casino on Public Square and six miles north of the planned Hard Rock racino under construction at Northfield Park.
In addition to the main gaming floor upgrades include a 60 seat restaurant, two food court outlets and a lounge for racino guests.
"We decided not to go with the big traditional casino buffet here," said Skinner, "but rather have multiple, multiple options."
Thistledown's 2,400 space parking lot will see improvements as part of the facility's renovation program. The racino will offer customers free parking and complimentary shuttles from your car to the front door.
The track's horse racing operations have been moved to the fourth floor where upgrades by the start of the live racing season April 19, will include the installation of new simulcast viewing equipment, the creation of a premium seating area and updating mutual teller windows.
The racino hosted a job fair last week to begin the process of filling 600 jobs needed to operate the facility.
Since hosting it's first race in 1925 the North Randall track has weathered it's 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.
The track has had a half dozen owners through the years, including four decades under the control of late San Francisco 49ers owner Ed DeBartolo. The DeBartolo family sold the track in 1999 to Magna Entertainment.
Caesars Entertainment acquired it out of bankruptcy for $43 million and last year announced a partnership with Rock Gaming to operate the new racino.
While the track has been an east side fixture for generations there will be no missing the racino once it opens this spring. "When you're on 480 you're going to know we're here." said Skinner of the signage planned for the track's roof.
"Huge red lettering, block lettering. We're already planning on light cannons on top of the main tower," he added.