Still no final approval for Austintown racino project - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

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Still no final approval for Austintown racino project

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - Construction of a racino in Austintown could be delayed at least four to six months.

The Ohio State Racing Commission is asking for more additional seats with a live view of horse racing at the future racetrack before they will give final approval to the proposed Hollywood Mahoning Valley Racecourse.

Penn National developers stood by their design at the commission's meeting in Columbus Wednesday, but the commission did not budge on its request for the company to, at the very least, add glass enclosed bleachers for more seating and more horse boarding stalls.

The commission is recommending more seats in addition to the 518 seats already in the building plan that boast a view of the track and a total of 1,000 stalls.

During and after the meeting, Penn National cried foul alleging the commission's standards for a new thoroughbred race track continue to change during each design review.

"They came up with a number for an additional 650 seats, a number we've never heard before," says Bob Tenenbaum, spokesperson for Penn National. "It's frustrating because we were ready to award about $4 million worth of steel and foundation contracts on each of the sites in Dayton and Austintown."

Penn National was hoping the commission would grant approval for the transfer of a racetrack license from a Columbus area track to its more than 180-acre site off of state Route 46, but its team will have to go back to the drawing board to work on a new design.

An township trustee in Austintown, Jim Davis, echoes the company's concern that the commission should outline the criteria required for a racetrack in the state.

"It seems like this board seems to be disfunctional in the fact that they don't have any rules or regulations set forth that you can come in and know exactly what it will take to open a racetrack in the state of Ohio," Davis says.

The commission maintains it's trying to keep a focus on the racing sport in tact.

"There was genuine shock that the initial plans only had seating for 208 race fans, nobody could have imagined that the facility could have been that inadequate," says Mark Munroe, a racing commissioner.

The start date for construction of the racino was set for the first week of April. Now that the $250 million project is eyeing a set back, construction and 1,000 racino jobs that were supposed to follow will be put on hold.

Davis says spinoff economic development linked to the anticipated racino and shale industry is still in motion. He says at least one hotel is applying for zoning permits.

"Candlewood Suites is an extended stay, so you'd see people from the gas and oil industry staying in hotels like that," he says.

The hotel chain is in the process of reserving a location behind the Holiday Inn Express off of Route 46 near Interstate 80. Davis says a second hotel is also interested in moving in, but a name and details are not available at this time.

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