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County Cancels Horse Races

Due to the loss of a critical partner in producing the event, an increase in operating costs, and the elimination of state financed support for county racing in the State of Arizona and in Coconino County, the Coconino County Board of Supervisors met in special session on May 27, 2011, and voted to cancel the 2011 Horse Races.   The event was scheduled to occur over the July 4th weekend.

In the past several years, Coconino County has lost revenue on the event.  In 2010, Coconino County entered into an agreement with Yavapai Downs, a commercial race track in Prescott Valley, to co-produce the races in Flagstaff.  Through this agreement, the county recovered a majority, though not all, of its costs associated with the event.  Yavapai Downs was also the main provider of key services and staff, as well as equipment used in the Coconino County horse races.  The county, however, has still yet to be reimbursed by Yavapai Downs for shared expenses and revenue from the July 2010 event.

In 2011, Coconino County renewed the co-production agreement with Yavapai Downs, anticipating payment from the 2010 event and a successful Fourth of July Horse Race meet in Flagstaff.  Throughout the week, however, the county learned of financial difficulties within Yavapai Downs with a final decision on May 25, 2011, to the Arizona State Racing Commission that the Yavapai Downs racing season (May through September) is cancelled for 2011.

The cost of Coconino County producing the horse races without Yavapai Downs is prohibitive and would require substantial subsidy.  Not unlike other governmental entities, Coconino County has continued to experience revenue shortfalls and cuts in funding on the state and federal levels.  Coconino County joins other counties across the state who have cancelled their events in 2010 and 2011 due to similar circumstances.

“The Board of Supervisors certainly regrets this decision to cancel the horse races in Coconino County for 2011,” said Mandy Metzger, Chair of the Coconino County Board of Supervisors.  “For the best interest of the county and to ensure transparency and accountability to our taxpayers, the Board determined that we could not subsidize the event in 2011 given the loss of a critical partner.”

The county will be reimbursing the box seat tickets that have been sold to date.  Anyone who has purchased box seat tickets for the 2011 Horse Races is asked to contact the Coconino County Parks and Recreation Department at 928-679-8000.  Box seat ticket holders will have the opportunity to donate the cost of their tickets to the Friends of Coconino County Parks, a non-profit organization with the mission of supporting Coconino County Parks and Recreation Department’s efforts through land conservation and management, park development and operation, and promoting recreational activities.

“The Board of Supervisors would like to thank all of the community members and volunteers who worked so hard to try and save the races over the past years,” said Mandy Metzger, Chair of the Board of Supervisors.

For more information, call Coconino County Recreation and Events Manager Cynthia Nemeth at (928) 679-8005.


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3 Responses to County Cancels Horse Races

  1. Sheri May 27, 2011 at 6:13 PM #

    This would have been the 56th annual races. The races ran during the Vietnam war, during tough economic times in the 70s and after 9/11. None of these things could keep the races from running, yet somehow in 2011 our government can’t figure out how to get it done. They’ll lay the blame on Yavapai Downs, but the reality is that county government mismanaged the races for years. There are sponsors, including beer and tobacco, that would have paid for the races but the county wouldn’t accept them. The county refused to raise ticket prices, to open the infield and charge a premium price to partygoers to make it our version of the Kentucy Derby, to enter into new agreements with concessions vendors so that the county would get a bigger cut, to create a premium parking and viewing area near the 3rd turn and may other ideas. It was always “that violates our principles” or “the insurance will cost too much”. Finally, the city of Flagstaff obviously does not care for the fact that horse race attendees put money in their pockets via hotel taxes, bar taxes, etc. The city of Flagstaff refused to assit the county with funding this race that puts money on their bottom line. Wait until you see city sales tax revenue for July 2011 compared to July 2010, then you may understand why you should have assisted the county, city council and Mayor Pressler.

  2. Carolyn May 27, 2011 at 9:08 PM #

    Amen, Sheri

  3. Don Duke June 1, 2011 at 6:28 PM #

    My family meets every year in Flag for the races…many many years. We have many friends who do the same. We stay at Innsuites, Travelodge, Motel6, Days Inn/ We eat at Laq Fonda, Salsa Brava, Bigfoot BarBQ, Mike and Rondas…..but guess what?…Not this year. The races don’t COST the County. They make the County money. How the politicos and the beareaucrats cannot see that is amazing. Bye Bye Flag. It was fun while it lasted.

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