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YONKERS, NY-Preliminary site work has begun on a $185-million project to improve racing conditions at Yonkers Raceway as well as transform the facility into a gaming venue with 5,500 video lottery terminals. The project calls for a complete restoration of the existing clubhouse as well as improvements to all mechanicals and infrastructure. The plan also will involve the construction of a 120,000-sf addition to the clubhouse at the site of the old grandstand, which was torn down in 1997.

Robert Galterio, vice president and general manager of Yonkers Raceway, says the project simply “is going to be the revival of Yonkers Raceway.” Other work involved includes repaving, landscaping and relighting work as well as some hazardous waste removal, he says. The VLTs will be housed in both the existing clubhouse building as well as the new building.

Once completed, Yonkers Raceway would be the single largest venue for video lottery terminals in New York State. Locally, Monticello Raceway’s “Mighty M” in Sullivan County has 1,743 VLTs, while MGM Mirage plans to build a 4,500-unit video lottery terminal facility at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens.Racing has been suspended so that the project could proceed and track officials are hopeful racing can resume by the end of this year. The renovated clubhouse building will open next June with the new 120,000-sf addition scheduled to open by September 2006.

On May 20, the City of Yonkers filed suit in New York State Supreme Court charging that the environmental review of the “Empire City at Yonkers Raceway” project was insufficient. Recently, the track and the city agreed on a 10-year financial agreement that calls for approximately $40 million in payments by Yonkers Raceway to the city over the first five years of the deal, depending on how much business the track generates. Earlier this week the city withdrew the litigation after the financing deal was reached and assurances were given by the track that it would meet with the city to discuss traffic issues that might arise once the track brings in more patrons and business.

The project is expected to create about 500 construction jobs and 850 permanent jobs upon completion. The New York State Racing Association has approved an additional phase that could see the track add 2,000 more VLTs and build a new parking garage at the 97-acre complex. Galterio says the raceway is unsure at this time if it intends to move forward with that project.

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