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Board vote on AKsarben ends horse racing at track

December 31, 1996

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) _ The Douglas County Board voted Tuesday to sell 140 acres of the county-owned AKsarben racetrack grounds to First Data Resources for an office complex and university science campus.

The 6-1 vote ends horse racing at Nebraska’s largest track, and jeopardizes horse racing at the other four tracks.

The vote came after two days of sometimes heated testimony during four public hearings on the issue. On Monday morning the board approved 15 measures that cleared several legal obstacles for the FDR project.

First Data plans to buy the land for $10 million and build an office park that it says will add 2,000 jobs to the area over the next five years.

The vote brings an official end to AKsarben’s horse racing operations. AKsarben did not hold a live racing meet in 1996, a first since 1944 for the once-nationally prominent Omaha horse track.

County board member Carole Woods Harris said if she had voted with her emotions, she would have voted to keep AKsarben and its horse racing operations alive. But she said she elected instead to vote for the future and promise for jobs for the community.

Board chairman Clare Duda said the decision ``not only takes into account what our community is today, but what it will be in the future.″

The credit-card processing company also said it will donate half the property for a University of Nebraska at Omaha information science and engineering campus. An FDR spokeswoman said the company intended to sign the contracts Thursday.

Monday night about 130 people turned out to challenge or support the proposal. Horse racing supporters jeered at comments from supporters of the development plans.

Among those in the audience was Lincoln businessman Don Everett, who submitted two proposals to buy AKsarben and restore live racing at the track. Everett’s proposals were similar to purchase offers he previously made to the County Board.

Everett’s proposals would provide room for the FDR and UNO building projects, he said, but FDR has said the businessman’s proposals would not work for the company.

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