VIGL, the company selected to operate and manage the U.S. Virgin Islands’ two horse tracks, is set to begin reconstruction as soon as August at the Randall “Doc” James Racetrack, according to Lance Griffith, the chief executive officer of VIGL.
Griffin made the announcement Thursday at the meeting of the V.I. Horse Racing Commission.
The news comes after the government continued to iron out an amendment to the original deal with VIGL for the operation and management of both local racetracks. The addendum allows VIGL to begin to reconstruct the Randall “Doc” James Racetrack.
The proceedings involved a lawsuit between the government and Southland Gaming Inc., which has sought to maintain its exclusive rights to operate slot machines and video lottery terminals on St. Thomas and St. John.
“As you know, we have been going through the process of getting back on the track. We got the addendum done on July 7 and the temporary license was signed. We will officially be back on the track on Aug. 2,” said Griffith.
Griffith also said Calvert White, the commissioner of the Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation, and VIGL General Manager Jason Williams walked through the St. Croix track a week before “so we will be able to remobilize pretty quickly.”
In the meantime, Griffith said that VIGL has been meeting with VIVOT, the contracting company assigned to the reconstruction, to finalize the contract agreement and release architectural documents to VIVOT.
Horse Racing Commission member Sheldon Turnbull asked if all the permits were in line moving forward due to the delays that occurred, referencing a permit from the Federal Aviation Administration. Griffith said that as of July 2020 the Federal Aviation Administration permit was up to date as well as other permits.
“With all the obstacles moved out of the way now we should be able to move forward expeditiously,” Griffith said.
Griffith said so far the extended track has been completed, new breakaway railing has been installed on the track, existing barns have been worked on and new electrical and other repairs have been done to roofs. The work remaining includes more work to the barns, the grandstand, and the jockey station.
Griffith said that the point where they can begin racing is when there are no more public safety issues.
“At this point, I don’t have a timeline for that. We don’t want to just jump ahead and just get racing going. We want to make sure we are facilitating in the right way,” he said.
Chairman Hugo Hodge Jr. said he remains optimistic.
“Still is a little unclear if we will get temporary racing on either track. I believe there is a proposal on the floor of what we want from a group on St. Thomas to do stuff prior to construction activities,” Hodge said. “There is also going to be some discussion with VIGL as to what can and can’t happen during construction.”
Griffith said for the time being he continues to send his team members off-island to get more training in preparation.
“We are going to have a lot of different connections with different tracks.”
When asked when he would like to see horse racing returning, Hodge replied, “From my perspective, we want horse racing yesterday, but realistically we have to learn what the reality is and all of that determines the next steps. Things need to be in place before you can get a race on the track. Can we safely have anybody on the track? And then COVID, we need to get past that.”
Members present were Hodge, Turnbull, Dodson James, Ronald Phillips, and White.