Commonwealth Journal

February 18, 2013

Girdler happy Corbin is getting track

Mayor feels Somerset could benefit from development

by Chris Harris
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset —  

Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler is happy that the planned Keeneland horse racing track will be in the Corbin area rather than Somerset. 
That location stands to maximize its potential — and that’s something that Somerset itself could feed off of.
“We would feel that any type of development in Corbin along the interstate would have a positive impact on Somerset merchants and businesses to bring more tourist dollars,” Girdler told the Commonwealth Journal on Monday.
Keeneland Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer Vince Gabbert mentioned the “Lake Cumberland” region as being within the marketing scope of the quarter horse racing track during last week’s announcement, and the potential of the local tourism industry making the track a “good fit” for southeastern Kentucky.
Likewise, Knox County Judge-Executive J. M. Hall specifically mentioned Somerset as one of the places people might come to the track from, making Pulaski County relevant to Friday’s news regarding the Keeneland expansion. The track will be operated as a joint venture between Keeneland and Full House Resorts of Nevada, according to the Corbin Times-Tribune.
Girdler said that he recently met with Corbin’s mayor and has also been in talks with nearby London, Ky., over the years about developmental cooperation between the cities.
“Both Somerset and Corbin/London needs to do more to promote economic development as a region,” said Girdler, who noted that factors such as already-existing entertainment center The Arena in Corbin and the eventual planned meeting of I-75 and the yet-to-be-realized I-66 make for a greater potential for tourist dollars throughout the entire area.
But does Girdler wish it had been Somerset to get the track rather than Corbin? 
While Girdler acknowledges that horse racing “is accepted by people” in this area, thanks to its rich history in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, being located in a community along a major interstate highway like Corbin is on I-75 means the track stands a greater chance of success than it would in Somerset.
“I think a facility of that nature would have a better chance of surviving and having a greater economic impact being on the interstate system,” said Girdler. “Even though we would welcome such a development in terms of working with Corbin and London, that would probably be the best location. You’d need the tourist traffic from up north and coming from down in Knoxville.
“That type of activity would not be boating-related,” he added, “and I think would have much more success in Corbin than in Somerset.”