Posted on November 20, 2018
HOT SPRINGS — Oaklawn Racing and Gaming said Monday that it plans a $100 million expansion, including a seven-story hotel, event center, a larger gaming area, and additional on-site parking.
“This historic announcement represents a new chapter in the rich 114-year history of Oaklawn,” said Louis Cella, president of Oaklawn Jockey Club. “As we enhance the entertainment experience for our customers, we will also further elevate thoroughbred racing and help make Arkansas and Hot Springs even stronger regional tourism destinations.”
The yet-to-be-named hotel will have 200 rooms, including two presidential suites. Amenities will include an outdoor swimming pool, a luxury spa, fitness center and restaurant.
“The hotel will offer a unique vantage point for our patrons in that it will overlook the track. Imagine the spectacular view as the horses are heading down the stretch,” said Cella. “Our goal is to achieve 4-star status.”
Adjacent to the hotel will be a 14,000 square-foot multi-purpose events center that will accommodate up to 1,500 people for various events such as concerts, meetings, banquets and weddings.
The project also includes the addition of approximately 28,000 square feet of gaming space and significantly expanded parking.
Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson said the Oaklawn expansion will be monumental.
“The state of Arkansas is grateful to Louis and his family for their commitment to growing their business right here at home,” said Gov. Hutchinson. “This project, which will be financed exclusively with private funds, not only represents one of, if not the largest, tourism related expansion projects in our history, it will also rank among the state’s largest economic development projects in 2019.”
“Hot Springs is already one of the top tourism destinations in the South,” said Kane Webb, director of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. “This expansion will thrust Hot Springs into the category of the nation’s elite vacation and recreation locations.”
Cella said that the marketing of the project will complement efforts made by the City of Hot Springs.
Steve Arrison, CEO of the Hot Springs Advertising and Promotion Commission, said the events center and hotel rooms will be beneficial to Hot Springs and Arkansas.
“Oaklawn’s project will allow Hot Springs to attract more and larger meetings and conventions,” said Arrison. “This creates exciting opportunities for Hot Springs tourism.”
The expansion project required years of planning, Cella said.
“While one may assume that today’s announcement comes in response to the passage of Issue 4 on November 6, we actually began planning for this during our last expansion in 2014,” said Cella. “Our goal then, as it is now, is to use a quality gaming experience to enhance racing and help attract even more great champions to Arkansas such as Smarty Jones, Zenyatta, and American Pharoah.”
Construction on the project will begin in May immediately following completion of the 2019 racing season. The target completion date for the gaming expansion is January 2020 with the hotel and event center to be completed in late 2020.
As it has for two previous Oaklawn projects, HBG Design of Memphis is the architectural firm for this new expansion.
Flintco Construction, with an Arkansas headquarters located in Springdale, is the contractor on the project. The company estimates that as many as 2,300 jobs will be created during the construction phase.
In April of this year, Oaklawn announced it will shift its racing season later in the calendar and for the first time will continue racing into May. It’s the biggest change in the traditional Oaklawn racing schedule since World War II.