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Simulcast horse racing coming to Hastings

September 16, 2018

There are a few details still to be worked out, but simulcast horse racing — as well as a restaurant — are the planned use for the former Bernardo’s Steak House building.

Justin Wahl, president of the Adams County Agricultural Society, told fellow Ag Society board members during their regular meeting Tuesday he signed a term sheet with Adams County Exposition and Racing Inc. on Sept. 7 for use of the restaurant building just south of the Adams County Fairgrounds at 1109 S. Baltimore Ave.

The parties had been in negotiations since January.

The Ag Society purchased the building in October 2017 from Bernardo Inc. for $300,000, according to the Adams County Assessor’s Office.

The term sheet means the parties have agreed upon terms for occupation of the property and is a precursor to a lease agreement, which still is being negotiated.

“It’s just going to generate revenue for everyone,” said Breann Becker, president of Adams County Exposition and Racing Inc. “It’ll bring jobs, it’ll bring money to the county and city.”

She expects to draw customers from a wide area.

Adams County Exposition and Racing Inc. also will expand live horse racing offered at the Adams County Fairgrounds. Becker’s family has overseen horse racing there one day a year as Fairplay Park since 2004, following a long absence of horse racing at the Adams County Fairgrounds.

Because of that existing racing presence, Adams County Exposition and Racing Inc. already has the licensing in place needed to simulcast.

Becker, 19, said she hopes to be open for business sometime in November.

“Getting it going will be exciting,” she said.

Adams County Exposition and Racing Inc. will simulcast live races year round from across the country for betting.

While there, customers also will be able to choose from a menu that will be a scaled-back version of what was available at Bernardo’s.

Adams County Exposition and Racing Inc. purchased the kitchen equipment from the Applebee’s in Hastings after that restaurant closed in June.

The Bernardo’s building will see a renovation before it opens.

“Bernardo’s will be a really good fit,” Becker said. “The whole thing is going to get redone inside and out.

“We used to go eat there all the time, and I think it’s a really good building, but we’re going to change some stuff up in it.”

For the Ag Society, having the term sheet in place and a lease agreement in negotiation follows nearly a year of work.

“I think there’s a lot of potential there, especially utilizing the fairgrounds and the racetrack,” Wahl said. “I think it’ll really benefit the fairgrounds having that there.”

The building has been closed since shortly after the death on Sept. 5, 2017 of former Bernardo’s owner Scott Munger.

“With it being empty for that long of time, I hate seeing that,” Wahl said. “It’s nice for us knowing we have someone interested in the property and not just that property but also has some ties on utilizing other areas of the fairgrounds. Going with the horse track, that would bring other people in town to do horse racing and simulcast racing.”

Also during the Ag Society meeting on Tuesday, board members approved the fairgrounds budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year, which Wahl said remains unchanged from the previous year.

He said freezing the budget will make it difficult to proceed with a planned $40,000 upgrade of electrical outlets in the camping area of the fairgrounds.

“We’re going to try to find some ways we can still do it, but it’s going to be tough,” he said.

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