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New Monmouth Park Leaseholder Means Big Changes For Oceanport

Flickr user A. M. A. Campbell

After a long waiting filled with twists and turns between the NJSEA and the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, the NJTHA is finally awarded a five year lease for Monmouth Park Race Track.

Joseph Irace
Joseph Irace (oceanportboro.com)

Just like last year, Monmouth Park, will be offering a 51 day race schedule along with purses averaging 400.000 dollars a day. However the Horseman’s Association has already expressed an interest to turn Monmouth Park into a full fledged entertainment destination for families and tourists, something the host town of Oceanport is fully onboard with.

Councilman Joseph Irace is happy to be working with the NJTHA because they’re plans for the future of Monmouth Park fall very much in line with the town’s plans which were developed when the potential investor Morris Bailey dropped out of the deal.

The idea’s from both sides have already been ambitious, Irace says plans for year round restaurants, an indoor water park with connecting hotel, a boardwalk style area, and miniature golf.

“What they know and what everybody knows is that it needs to be a year round destination, rather than just a destination for three months with just horse racing. It needs to be an all around entertainment complex.” Says Irace.

Another idea Irace said has been discussed by both parties involved is the possibilities of “Twilight Races”, Friday night races which start at three or four pm and go into the early evening and would act as a good jumping off point for the towns nightlife.

Adding that the Horsemen know “it’s very hard to remain profitable as just a race track in this new economic environment and this new fast paced environment.”

This won’t be the first time the Horsemen and the town will be working together. Irace says that Oceanport has held a relationship with the NJTHA, either through the Monmouth Park Task Force or through knowing people involved in the long proceeding discussions.

“It’s been good” says Irace “they’ve met with us, we’ve had an open relationship going forward. I know the Mayor (Michael Mahon) has been in contact with Dennis Drazin who is going to be the leader at the racetrack.”

With the state of horse racing in such a flux, Irace says entertainment options gives racing in New Jersey some kind of alternate edge, especially when all of the surrounding state allow some kind of gaming in their horse racing venues.

”Obviously the task force here in Oceanport and anyone you talk to will maintain the position that we still think that a lottery terminal or slot machine in the Meadowlands is the best way to protect horseracing in the state.”

Irace notes that it’s important that both the Horsemen and the town take advantage of their new opportunity.

“We want to bring people in and show them there’s more than just ‘here’s the horses they’re racing’ and that’s it. There’s a lot of things there, there’s a lot of land there that can be turned into different things.”

The Councilman points out that since this season’s racing season got off to a late start you might not see many of the changes being discussed but he does expect them to begin as soon as possible.

Overall Irace is confident that the NJTHA are the right choice to be at the helm of Monmouth Park.

”The Horsemen are the ones who know what it takes to get the racetrack up and running and to bring profitability back to the race track because we think it shouldn’t just survive, it should thrive.”

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