OWENSBORO, Ky (WEHT) – Ellis Entertainment announced on Tuesday they have reached a definitive leasing agreement with TSM Holdings LLC for the former JCPenney’s location in the Owensboro Towne Square Mall.

General Manager of Ellis Entertainment Jeffery Inman says the $20 million project will provide 200 new jobs and generate an estimated $6-8 million in extra revenue to improve the racing at Ellis Park. according to the announcement, the 62,000 square-foot space will feature a wide selection of horse racing machines, simulcast betting, a viewing area and a new race and sports themed restaurant.

The old JCPenney closed in Owensboro about two years ago. It will start being transformed from a store to ellis park’s extension later this year.

A place where shoppers once looked for sales, will become a place where horse racing fans can start looking for winners soon.

“When you see it from our eyes, looking at it, we could see a fully laid out facility when we walked that property,” said General Manager Jeff Inman. He also says they chose that spot because of the available parking, access to Frederica Street and Highway 60, and it has enough space for what they want to do. He adds it could become a stand alone building, but can fit in with developers’ plans for the rest of the mall, and it repurposes a large empty space.

“One of the things that we have noticed, and it’s been noted in the industry, is a lot of facilities such as this, and the one that went into Bowling Green, is using unused retail facilities. It has really become an industry touchpoint right now, is to reutilize a lot of those areas,” he said.

Inman says the extension will have up to 700 HHR machines, plus a simulcast area and sports themed restaurant. It’s expected to bring in 6 to 8 million dollars for additional purses at the Henderson track.

“They do add an extra element of amenities for our tourists,” said Mark Calitri of Visit Owensboro. He also says gaming sites like the planned extension have been shown to be a draw for tourists.

“It also adds an extra tool in the tool belt for our community like Owensboro. It gets people coming in for Green River Distillery, or wanting to experience the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum, it gives those customers an extra amenity to enjoy,” he said.

Calitri adds he’s talking with tourism officials in northern Kentucky on what they did on similar marketing opportunities.

Construction on the project is slated to start this summer, with an anticipated opening date in 2023.

(This story was originally published on March 1, 2022)