Gural's lease of Meadowlands OK'd; rent to be $1
December 23, 2011
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On Friday (Dec. 23), the Board of Commissioners of the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority formally entered into a 31-year lease agreement with the New Meadowlands Racetrack LLC (NMRLLC), headed by Jeff Gural, for the operation of Meadowlands Racetrack. The agreement will close, and private operation commence, on Dec. 24, 2011. The NMRLLC has been responsible for all costs of operating and managing the Meadowlands Racetrack since June 1, 2011.
The meeting also included the presentation of the details of Gural's deal with the NJSEA. The NMRLLC will pay annual rent of $1 per year for the first five years, with rent set at at least $500,000 a year for the rest of the 31-year ground lease.
In addition, The Bergen Record also reported that Gural would have a right to conduct slot machine operations or other new gaming at the track. If a casino is built at the Meadowlands Sports Complex without slots at the track, Gural would be able to walk away and recoup “110 percent of the cost of its capital improvement at that time.”
The NJSEA will also pay as much as $6 million in environmental remediation costs at the site of the new grandstand. Under terms of the lease, Gural agreed to build a new, $70 million grandstand on the opposite side of the current grandstand, as well as 1,500 parking spaces at the site of the current barns on the backstretch. Gural also must build a $16 million off-track wagering facility in Bayonne which is already in the construction phase.
Gural told John Brennan of The Record that he feared the deal still might fall apart as late as Monday, after a year of often-hectic negotiations.“I feel as if I’ve accomplished the first phase, but now I have to raise another $25 million,” said Gural, who estimates he has $75 million in place from equity and loans.But we’re still in the process of getting permits, so we haven’t lost any time yet.”
Gural would have a right to conduct slot machine operations or other new gaming at the track, depending on legislative approval. If a casino is built at the Meadowlands Sports Complex without slots at the track, Gural would be able to walk away and recoup “110 percent of the cost of its capital improvement at that time.”
“I think about where we were and how hard all of this was,” said Standardbred Breeders & Owners Association President Tom Luchento. “But from the brink of disaster last year, I think now we’ll be better off in the long run. We finally have something concrete.
“It was a long and arduous journey,” Luchento added. “I don’t consider us at the finish line yet, but the best news is that racing is on, beginning January 6, 2012 at the Meadowlands. There couldn’t be a better Christmas present.”
“This is a great day for the racing industry, its fans, and the people of New Jersey as we take a tremendous stride forward in achieving Governor Chris Christie’s goal of a self-sustaining racing industry in the State of New Jersey,” said NJSEA Chairman Mike Ferguson. “I want to publicly congratulate Mr. Gural and his team and the tireless efforts of the NJSEA management and Governor’s office in bringing this day about.”
In other NJSEA news, Wayne Hasenbalg, Gov. Christie's deputy chief of staff for Policy and Planning, is expected to become the head of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority. Hasenbalg, the governor's point staff person on sports, replaces Dennis R. Robinson, who stepped down recently to become chief operations officer of the Grand Prix of America.
Before joining the Christie administration, Hasenbalg most recently served as a partner in the Teaneck (NJ) office of the law firm of DeCotiis, Fitzpatrick & Cole LLP. Hasenbalg rejoined the firm as a partner in 2008, focusing his practice on regulatory affairs. In addition to his legal career, Hasenbalg has worked as assistant to the chief counsel of the governor in the Thomas Kean administration, as well as chief of staff for Attorney General Cary Edwards. He also served as treasurer for Essex County.
Click here to read the complete Bergen Record story.