Racetrack closure creates $50 million hole

Posted at 6:12 PM, Mar 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-18 20:12:52-04

The historical live horse racing track of the Treasure Valley, Les Bois Park, is shuttering its operations this weekend.

Managers say the well has run dry and they wouldn't turn a profit this year, but the park is just one domino that could start a major economic tumble. The loss of Les Bois may be mourned by some locals as one more historic icon goes away, however the park is a linchpin in the entire horse industry across the state.

"There's no racing at all in the state of Idaho," said Myron Amsden, a board member of the Idaho Horse Council.

As Les bois park once again closes its doors, Amsden says the workers of the racing industry are bracing for impact. Though it's just one park, Les Bois is the anchor for all other racing in the state.

"We won't have horses to shoe at Les Bois,” said Amsden. “The vets won't be down there vetting those horses. They won't be feeding them, you've got the impact of the employees that got laid off."

A new research study from Boise State University estimates Les Bois Park had a $50 million footprint in the local economy. Those moneys funneled down to smaller tracks like Emmett and Blackfoot,which have canceled their racing seasons. Local stores like R.C. Bean Saddlery will lose major business.

"They're going to be affected by that,” said Amsden. “They buy tack, they buy saddles, they buy everything that goes with racing. It's just a trickle-down theory."

From the breeders to the tack shop the future of the horse industry in Idaho is one big question mark.

Les Bois Park was forced to close after lawmakers eliminated instant racing machines from the state. Park managers said those terminals were the only thing keeping the track profitable.