Washington track backers give it up

August 11, 1993|By Seattle Times

FIFE, Wash. -- Citing indifference to their efforts by the Washington State Racing Commission, backers of a Thoroughbred racetrack in Fife have abandoned their plans to build a $55-million facility in Pierce County.

Dan Absher, spokesman for Fife Thoroughbred Racing Management, said his group also will abandon a lawsuit that sought to overturn the commission's decision to award racing dates to a group trying to build a track in Auburn, located south of Seattle. Fife is located east of Tacoma and southwest of Auburn.

The Fife group had its financing and building permits in place, while the Auburn group, which has received tentative racing dates from the commission, needs permission from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to fill wetlands before construction can begin.

"It was never our intention to win a racing license through litigation," Absher told reporters gathered at the Executive Inn in Fife Tuesday.

"We filed suit in order to keep our application alive and enable the commission to return to Fife as a backup. It is painfully clear that this commission has no intention to do so."

The lack of any encouraging signs from the commission or Gov. Mike Lowry's office that Fife would be considered if the Auburn project failed led to the group's decision to disband.

"The governor's office and the commission have had every opportunity to give the slightest bit of encouragement, but we have never received that message," Absher said.

While the mood at Tuesday's news conference was somber, word of the Fife group's decision to withdraw from the competition to replace Longacres was greeted as good news at the Auburn headquarters of Northwest Racing Associates, which trying to build a track in south King County.

"We think, for the industry's sake, that this may be the thing that will allow us to get together and create some unity," said Jack Hodge of the Auburn group. "We've been surprised by the controversy, and this may be a sign things are starting to go our way."

Hodge said members of the Fife group would be welcome to jump on the Auburn bandwagon.

"We have friends in that group and didn't like being on the opposite side of the aisle from them," Hodge said.

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