Laramie County commissioners can’t force a live horse-racing business to locate at the Archer Event Center instead of Frontier Park, nor have commissioners ever discussed anything like using taxpayer money or eminent domain for any horse-racing facilities in Laramie County.
Those were just a few bullet points of disinformation Commissioner Gunnar Malm ticked through Tuesday afternoon during the commission’s regular meeting where an item to consider allowing horse racing at Frontier Park was tabled for a second time.
“I’m angry about what happened over this weekend,” Malm said, referring to a false push-poll survey circulated to Laramie County residents that purported to be for the project, but suggested that things like eminent domain and raising tax rates are part of the project.
Malm said he’s not angry about the “millions of emails and phone calls” he and other county commissioners have received about the horse racing proposal for Frontier Park.
“That’s what I signed up for,” he said. “I’m angry that an entity or person in our community chose to take this tack of espousing lies and mistruths and playing upon the fear of citizens to rally support against this project. You can be against this project for a number of reasons, but they should be factual.”
Not Even A Topic Of Discussion
Using taxpayer dollars and eminent domain are not things that Laramie County commissioners have ever at any time discussed, Malm told Cowboy State Daily after the meeting, and they are things he doesn’t believe make any sense to anyone who is at all familiar with the project and with Cheyenne Frontier Days.
“The races anticipate 500 cars, and those would be parked where the carnival goes, because there wouldn’t be a carnival during the horse races,” he said. “So, all the cars would be parked on the site. And CFD is obviously a much larger enterprise, and they’ve never asked to use eminent domain.”
In fact, rather than engage in eminent domain, Malm said Cheyenne Frontier Days officials have taken a completely opposite approach.
They’ve pursued a lease with the U.S. Air Force and the Department of Defense for some land across the interstate, as well as money from the Legislature to build a bridge so that pedestrians who park there could walk across the interstate to the Cheyenne Frontier Days grounds.
“There’s just a lot of holes in the survey,” Malm said. “But I don’t fault residents for responding the way they did, because it was portrayed in a way that seemed accurate. I’m only disappointed in whatever entity or individual chose to use that methodology to try and hurt a project.”
Having such political machinations for a business project is something Malm believes could be “detrimental to the long-term economic health of Wyoming.”
CFD Asked For Postponement
The postponement of Laramie County’s consideration of the horse racing proposal for Frontier Park was received at 4:15 p.m. Monday on Cheyenne Frontier Days letterhead.
Tom Hirsig, CFD’s president and CEO, told Cowboy State Daily the letter was prompted by dual concerns.
“Certainly, the deal over the weekend, where we were targeted by, we don’t know who, spreading misinformation about this whole thing kind of put the community in a tailspin, and we just need to make sure that, you know, the community knows what this is going to look like and has the facts.”
The letter itself doesn’t mention the survey that was circulated over the weekend. Instead it references a process of due diligence and working with Cheyenne Mayor Patrick Colins to address questions from Cheyenne residents about the project, many of which were raised during an informal public forum Accel Entertainment held for the project’s neighbors last week.
“CFD intends to take additional time to work with Mayor Collins and the city of Cheyenne to hear public concerns about horse racing at Frontier Park and solicit increased participation from all city residents,” the letter reads in part. “The city of Cheyenne has always been CFD’s partner. While not required by law, CFD believes it is required by the spirit of our 128-year relationship with the city.”
The letter goes on to outline that the idea behind the proposal is to enhance Frontier Park, not detract in any way from the neighborhood.
“We believe the investment from them represents opportunities to improve our facilities and provide financial benefits,” he said. “Accel is a professionally run company with a strong record of compliance. Accel as a publicly traded company, must comply with federal regulatory requirements, in addition to Wyoming laws and regulations.”
The project, if realized, would provide significant tax revenue to city, county, and state general funds, but CFD added it is committed to taking time to do things right.
“CFD has heard our neighbors,” the letter reads. “There are questions related to traffic control, the potential for noise, and other impacts. We will take the steps necessary to develop the needed information and present it to the city and our neighbors with regards to these concerns and present solutions.”
Mayor Plans To Meet With Accel
Collins, like Malm, told Cowboy State Daily he was dismayed by the misleading survey distributed over the weekend.
“I actually received one myself,” he said. “I don’t remember if it was this weekend, but it’s definitely a push poll, purporting to be in favor of the racetrack, while asking a lot of disparaging questions that are designed to enrage the neighborhood and bring public support against the horse racing.”
Collins said the idea that eminent domain would be used for this project is ludicrous.
“We shouldn’t even talk about it, because there’s no way in hell it’s going to happen,” he said.
Collins said he has already made plans to meet with Accel Entertainment on Friday, to go over the questions and concerns — 12 pages worth — expressed by CFD neighbors during Accel’s recent public forum.
After that, Collins hopes the company will host another meeting to explain what its strategy will be for each point.
“One of the concerns I remember is that the PA (system) could be impacting the neighborhood,” Collins said. “I’d ask them to hire whoever does that kind of work to modify it, so that it only projects into the area where the folks are going to be sitting.”
That would help keep the sound in a well, so to speak, so that it’s not projecting all over the neighborhood.
Collins also told Cowboy State Daily he believes that the city will likely need to amend its lease with Cheyenne Frontier Days to allow horse racing at the track, if the project goes through.
“If that’s the case, it may come before our governing body,” he said. “We’re still looking at that.”
Renée Jean can be reached at Renee@CowboyStateDaily.com.