Turf Paradise is revived by new owners, given a second chance at success.

Turf Paradise Gets Second Life Under New Ownership
Fact Checked by Young Ruth

Reports of the Turf Paradise horse racing track in Phoenix shutting down appear to have been inaccurate, as the iconic venue in the northern Valley will remain open with new ownership.

The track at the intersection of 19th Avenue & Bell Road will resume horse racing in January, as announced by General Manager Vincent Francia. Simulcasting and off-track betting will also continue as normal. This decision comes as a pleasant surprise to Francia and Arizona sports betting fans, as it appeared the track would be closing permanently just last month.

Francia has notified yengols.com that Turf Paradise is currently in the process of being purchased, with two main steps involved. The first step includes finalizing the purchase agreement for the racetrack, which will include terms and earnest money.

The following stage includes Richard Moore, the gentleman purchasing the racetrack, who will need to undergo a vetting process with the state and obtain approval. Horsemen are currently planning for a live meet to begin in January.

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Who is purchasing Turf Paradise?

According to the Daily Racing Form, Frank Nickens is identified as the primary buyer of the track, with Moore providing support for the deal. Francia confirmed that Nickens will be the one leading the project’s vision.

Despite the specific leadership structure, an agreement between Jerry Simms, the track owner, and the new leadership duo of Nickens and Moore guarantees that Phoenix’s 67-year-old race track will remain operational without any alterations.

Francia expressed optimism about the future of racing in Arizona, despite the closure of Turf Paradise. With only three tracks remaining – Arizona Downs in Prescott Valley up north, and Rillito Downs in Tucson down south – the industry is going through a period of transition. Francia believes that this challenging time will ultimately make the industry stronger as it adapts to the changes.

In a conversation with the DRF, Nickens displayed strong confidence in the future prosperity of the well-known Phoenix track under his guidance. Leveraging his background in the mining and construction industries in the state, he conveyed his belief in his ability to create a thriving business in the Valley.

Nickens told DRF that he has consistently achieved success when he has had the financial resources to pursue his goals.

What the Agreement Signifies for Sports Betting in Arizona

Turf Paradise was granted a limited event wagering license by the Arizona Department of Gaming in 2022, following an unsuccessful bid for a full Arizona betting apps license in 2021. Despite legal attempts to secure a full license, the track’s requests were ultimately rejected.

Turf Paradise, Arizona Downs of Prescott Valley, and eight off-track betting locations, in collaboration with Turf Paradise, have been authorized to offer limited licenses for retail sports betting exclusively. Turf Paradise has partnered with Unibet Arizona to create a retail sports betting area at the racetrack.

In July, Turf Paradise reported a handle of $282,630 and adjusted gross event wagering receipts of $51,008, as per the ADG. This figure outperformed the earnings of eight out of 17 mobile operators for the month and also exceeded the earnings of two retail locations run by the state’s major professional franchises, BetMGM Arizona at State Farm Stadium and Caesars Arizona at Chase Field.

Despite its recent lifeline, Brendan Bussmann, a seasoned professional in the sports betting industry at B Global Advisors, still has reservations about the long-term sustainability of Turf Paradise. The future of the track is shrouded in uncertainty due to the obstacles confronting Arizona horse racing and the continuing dispute between retail and online wagering in the state.

Turf Paradise is still in the running, but questions persist. Bussmann told yengols.com that this also offers a glimmer of hope for over half of the off-track betting sites that were facing challenges. The path forward is challenging, and we will soon see if the new owner’s plan will secure its future.

What Lies Ahead for Turf Paradise

Turf Paradise has been given the green light by the Arizona Department of Gaming to proceed with their off-track betting and limited event wagering activities, as confirmed by Maxwell Hartgraves.

Hartgraves reported that the Arizona Horseman’s Benevolent & Protective Association has approved an extension of simulcast approvals for Turf Paradise until November 12. As a result, the Arizona Racing Commission has also voted to extend the approval of pari-mutuel wagering until the same date. This information was communicated through an email sent to yengols.com.

The 213-acre property of Turf Paradise is set to undergo a series of renovations in the coming year, with plans to invest $50 million into the facility, according to Nickens.

Nickens told DRF that every aspect of the facility would be changed, stressing that it would not be a simple cosmetic update, but a thorough renovation to elevate it to a high-quality facility.

Francia is aiming for January to kick off the next racing season at Turf Paradise, marking a later than normal start. The delayed start will allow the new leadership to properly prepare for the upcoming year and usher in a new beginning for a facility that has faced ongoing instability.

Francia pointed out that horse racing embodies the idea that hope is always alive. The sudden appearance of these owners reaffirms this belief, bringing a fresh wave of optimism. The goal is to host a live meet from January to the first Saturday of May, aligning with Derby Day.

If the acquisition and reopening of Turf Paradise proceeds without any issues, we will continue with that usual schedule.



Peterson Christopher

Peterson Christopher has a wealth of experience covering sports and sports betting in Arizona for more than seven years. He has worked with notable publications such as ArizonaSports.com, the Tucson Weekly, and the Green Valley News. Currently, he holds the position of lead writer at yengols.com.

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