HENDERSON, Ky. (WEHT) Churchill Downs officials are starting to plan for Ellis Park’s future after announcing its acquisition from Laguna Development.

This plan includes the planned extension for Owensboro.

Churchill Downs’s agreement to buy Ellis Park from Laguna Development comes only several weeks after the 100th racing season ended here. Now, their attention turns to what future racing seasons will look like.

“I think this is the best situation, I really do,” said Henderson Mayor Steve Austin.

Senior Vice President Of Corporate Development Jason Sauer says they’re starting to review plans for upgrades at Ellis, and the design of the planned extension at the old JCPenney store at Towne Square Mall in Owensboro.

“It helps the mall, it helps that area out there, and it’s the first piece of the puzzle to bring the mall back to some relevancy,” says Owensboro Mayor Tom Watson.

Sauer also says once the extension goes online, it could lead to purses at Ellis Park to double or triple in amount, and help keep local horses racing at Ellis.

“They decide in June and July during the summer months to go out of state, to go to New York and other states. We want to keep more of those horses, more of those trainers here in the Tri-State region,” he explained.

Company officials say an additional $75 million in investments will be made in both facilities on top of the purchase price. They used to own Ellis Park in the late 90s and early 2000S. Mayor Austin says he hopes Churchill Downs returns the focus to horse racing while being successful in that and gaming.

“Churchill Downs is a racing corporation that is also does gaming, so I think that’s a big plus for Ellis Park in the future,” says Mayor Austin.

Sauer says the extension will have no impact on their planned casino in Terre Haute. The purchase still must be approved by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

As for the extension in Owensboro, officials with Gulfstream Development, who are involved in the project, say they are excited about the partnership with Churchill Downs. They add their vision for Owensboro gaming aligns with their redevelopment strategy for Towne Square Mall.

(This story was originally published on September 16, 2022)