A new half-mile track at a park in southern Johnson County could provide a place for horse owners to train for and compete in horse racing leagues.
If built, the horse track would be the 10th facility on the Indiana Standardbred’s schedule and would host about five events per year.
But officials first want to know how much the facility would cost to build, staff and maintain.
The park department is researching and studying the feasibility of a half-mile horse track at Hoosier Horse Park, which originally was proposed in the Johnson County Park master plan in 2008. Both facilities are north of Camp Atterbury, between Edinburgh and Nineveh.
The track would give the Indiana Standardbred Association a venue in Johnson County similar to ones at county fairgrounds across the state. The park would be used for training, standardbred harness racing and quarter-mile horse racing. The facility would also have barns, stables and a veterinarian facility.
The horse track would be solely for the Indiana Standardbred’s races, which do not allow betting because of state regulations and guidelines. The county is not considering building a track where people could bet on races, which would require officials to go to the state for licensing and permits, Johnson County Park Board attorney Roger Young said.
If the track were put in, it would add another stop on the Indiana Standardbred’s spring, summer and fall racing and event schedule.
The group views Johnson County as a prime location for events and initially looked at the Johnson County fairgrounds in Franklin, but there wasn’t enough room, according to Jack Kieninger, president of the Indiana Standardbred Association.
“We’re an advocate of (the proposed track); there’s no question about that,” Kieninger said. “It would be a perfect fit.”
County officials discussed the proposal in 2008 in the parks master plan, which includes ideas, needs and wants for the park department. As of now, the track is nothing more than an idea, officials said.
“We’re not even close to (building the track). I wouldn’t even say we are at the beginning stages,” Johnson County Parks and Recreation Superintendent Megan Bowman said. “People are thinking this is a done deal, and it’s not.”
First, the park board has to find out if the proposed plan would even work. That requires going to similar facilities to observe day-to-day operations, including staffing needs, and then looking at the cost. The board is gathering information right now, trying to see if a track would even be a smart investment for the park, Bowman said.
“I want all the information,” she said. “There are so many layers to this process that we have to take a good hard look at before we decide if we want to keep the track in our plans.”
Officials also need to know how much it would cost to build the track and facility, Bowman said.
The Indiana State Fair Commission would have to approve funding. A state grant would be the primary source of funding for building the track, Bowman said.
Each year, the commission gives out nearly $125,000 in grants. The park board and parks department would have to submit an application, Indiana State Fair Commission spokeswoman Lesley Gordon said. A recent legislative change makes county parks eligible for the grant money, instead of only county fairs, a change prompted by the Indiana Standardbred Association.
The commission reviews applications in the fall, after the Indiana State Fair, and has had no formal discussions with the Johnson County Parks Department, Gordon said.