Racino to dig well for water

AUSTINTOWN – The company building an Austintown thoroughbred racetrack and a slots-like gaming terminal plans to forego offers of water service from Youngstown, Niles and McDonald.

Instead, the company’s need for “enormous amounts of water” to operate the planned Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course will come from water wells drilled on site, a Penn National spokesman said Monday.

“We will be drilling a well,” said Penn National spokesman Bob Tenenbaum. “We finished the tests that we needed to determine that there was sufficient quantity and quality to pass EPA standards.”

He said the company anticipates no problems in gaining needed environmental approval.

Tenenbaum said it was always the company’s preference to provide its own water, something he says Penn National does at several of its other facilities across the country.

“Penn National does this any time we can. The facility uses an enormous amount of water,” he said, but could not provide a specific quantity.

Tenenbaum denied the company’s decision to pursue drilling a water well stemmed from attempts by the city of Youngstown, which provides water service to Austintown, to create new revenue streams for the city from the racetrack.

Youngstown Mayor Charles Sammarone in July had approached Austintown Township about the possibility of creating a Joint Economic Development District that could generate additional revenue for both communities through income and business taxes assessed at the racino. It was speculated at the time that Youngstown could use its water service to leverage the proposed JEDD.

Within weeks after Austintown Trustees turned down Youngstown’s JEDD proposal, the cities of Niles and McDonald made offers to run utility lines to Austintown and provide water service to the racetrack.

Monday, Tenenbaum expressed gratitude for the offers and to the Austintown trustees for their cooperation.

Austintown trustee chairman Jim Davis said Monday he supports Penn National’s decision on water service.

“We think it’s excellent news that they can be self sufficient,” Davis said. “We knew they had the potential, and this has been done before. They obviously had to run tests to make sure it would work.”

Davis said fire protection also would come from the wells, but said details involving water pressure and other fire suppression issues would be worked out under the direction of the fire inspector.

“We are very appreciative to everybody that offered us water, but as it turns out, we are not going to need to purchase it.”

Tenenbaum said the cost of drilling the wells will be included in the facility’s construction costs and will be subcontracted along with the other construction work. He declined to specify an estimated cost for the wells.

Monday’s announcement came one day before today’s planned traditional “topping out ceremony.” The ceremony, led by local Ironworkers, will mark the completion of the structural steel phase of construction which began in May. The final beam will be signed by ironworkers, construction crews and others involved in the project before it is hoisted into place by a crane.

The company has said the project will cost about $136 million. It is expected to open in mid-2014 on 190 acres near the intersection of Interstate 80 and state Route 46 in Austintown.