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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, June 22, 2024
HomeNewsLocal governmentSt. Thomas Track Construction Beating St. Croix’s

St. Thomas Track Construction Beating St. Croix’s

Senators appreciated seeing a photo of the grandstand standing on St. Thomas. (Photo from Southland Gaming report)

Shaine Gaspard, executive vice president of Southland Gaming, the developer of the racetrack on St. Thomas, had photos of a completed grandstand to show the Committee on Culture, Youth, Aging, Sports, and Parks Friday.

Jason Williams, general manager of racing operations for VIGL, only had news about some permit approvals and a wait for further approvals before construction could begin at the Randall “Doc” James Racetrack.

Elroy Bates, president of Flamboyant Park Horsemen Association, was not happy with the situation. Nor were any of the senators at the hearing. Sen. Carla Joseph said it appeared to her that VIGL was “lollygagging.”

Bates said members of the Horsemen’s Association on St. Croix were “fed up” with VIGL. He said VIGL was playing games. VIGL’s latest delay is waiting for building permits. According to Bates, when VIGL applied for those permits, it did not include the fees for permits and the permits just languished at the Department of Natural Resources. He said, “Everyone knows permits cost money.”

Williams defended the mistake, saying it was due to a “miscommunication.”

When Hugo Hodge, chairman of the Horseracing Commission, was asked what reports the commission received on progress from VIGL, he replied, “Same as you are hearing – waiting on this, waiting on that.”

Sen. Alma Francis Heyliger said she was impressed with the progress on St. Thomas and disappointed with the progress on St. Croix.

Gaspard said Southland Gaming was dedicated to finishing the Clinton E. Phipps Racetrack project on schedule and “revitalizing horse racing in the Virgin Islands.”

Williams would not give a timeline for when construction would begin on the Racetrack on St. Croix when pressed by senators. He said he did not have control over DPNR, which had yet to approve some permits. He did say a construction company had been engaged to do the project.

The V.I. government has appropriated $5 million for a grant to VIGL to be used to get horseracing running on St. Croix.

Calvert White, commissioner of Sports, Parks, and Recreation, said that money would not be released until he saw major construction at the St. Croix track.

The discussion of progress at the two tracks during the first part of Friday’s hearing segued into the second part of the hearing where a bill to establish separate horse racing commissions for each district was discussed. Sen. Novelle Francis said it was being shown that St. Croix needed a strong voice in what was happening. The bill was passed and forwarded with a favorable recommendation to the Rules and Judiciary Committee.

Committee members present at the meeting were Sens. Angel Bolques Jr., Marvin Blyden, Novelle Francis Jr., Franklin Johnson, Diane Capehart, Carla Joseph, Alma Francis Heyliger, Milton Potter, and Samuel Carrion.

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