HOT SPRINGS (KFSM) — Oaklawn Racing and Gaming announced a massive $100 million expansion that will include a luxury high-rise hotel, a multipurpose event center and an expanded gaming center, all connected to the historic thoroughbred racetrack.
The expansion is being made to promote "this venue, our city and this state as one of the South's premier destinations," said Louis Cella, president of Oaklawn Jockey Club. "Not only is this Oaklawn's largest investment, it is one of the largest investments in hospitality in the state of Arkansas."
The expansion will feature a 200-room, luxury hotel with a spa and resort, including outdoor pools and an outdoor patio that will overlook the racetrack. It will also include a 28,000-square-foot gaming center, and a 14,000-square-foot multipurpose center that will hold up to 1,500 people for a variety of events, from expos and weddings to concerts.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson spoke at the announcement and said Cella, Eric Jackson and Wayne Smith briefed him on their plans back in October, before the election when voters decided to allow casinos in the state with Issue 4.
"That means that Issue 4 wasn't relevant to their plans to expand here," Hutchinson emphasized.
“While one may assume that today’s announcement comes in response to the passage of Issue 4 on November 6, we actually began planning for this during our last expansion in 2014,” said Cella. “Our goal then, as it is now, is to use a quality gaming experience to enhance racing and help attract even more great champions to Arkansas such as Smarty Jones, Zenyatta, and American Pharoah.”
The 2019 racing season has been pushed back three weeks from past years. The racing season will start on Jan. 25 and will close on May 4 to coincide with the Kentucky Derby.
Construction will begin immediately after the 2019 season concludes. The gaming expansion is expected to be completed in January 2020 in time for the next season, with the hotel and event center to be completed later that year.
HBG Design of Memphis is the architectural firm chosen for the expansion, and Flintco Construction, with its Arkansas headquarters based in Springdale, will be the contractor on the project.
The construction is expected to add 2,300 jobs.
Our CBS Little Rock affiliate THV contributed to this report.