Fair Board Reconsidering Deal To Rename Expo Square, Live Racing Back On

Wednesday, December 12th 2012, 5:09 pm
By: News On 6

The latest vote at the Tulsa County fairgrounds is "yes" to horse racing at Fair Meadows—at least for one more year.

But that vote may have cost the county $1.4 million.

Live racing was slated to end this year, under a lucrative naming rights agreement with the Muscogee Creek Nation.

The fate of that deal is now up in the air. But for Oklahoma horsemen, it's off to the races.

A unanimous decision by the Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority reinstated the races at Fair Meadows.

12/10/2012 Related Story: Tulsa Fair Board About Face: Live Horse Racing In 2013 Being Reconsidered

"This is a win-win," said Joe Lucas, of the Oklahoma Thoroughbred Association.

The two horsemen groups at the center of the back-and-forth racing deals say they got what they came for.

"I drove three hours to get here today, because I didn't know what they'd do today based on what's happened before and I wanted to see it with my own eyes," Lucas said.

The fair board announced the special meeting after learning the Fair Meadows Race Director, Ron Shotts, had signed racing contracts for next year with the two horsemen groups.

Those deals were done before the fair board inked a deal with the Creek Nation that would end the races.

Shotts made those agreements without the board's knowledge or approval, and the board voted to honor those agreements because they came first.

"It's nice to see that the process works and that people do listen to the public when they rally and show their support," said Debbie Schauf, of the Oklahoma Quarterhourse Association.

Muscogee Creek Nation Principal Chief George Tiger said the tribe is willing to work with the horsemen groups and the board for a mutually beneficial new deal, but the $1.4 million a year to rename the current QuikTrip Center may change.

"We shouldn't be penalized for something that wasn't our fault, so we're using that as a negotiating point, possibly at a lower rate," Tiger said.

Tiger asked and the board agreed to postpone a vote on a new deal with the tribe that doesn't include the end of live horse racing.

Tiger must take this new deal back to the National Council, which approves the money.

Even though the agreement hasn't been finalized, the Creek Nation is already shopping for vendors for Expo Square, so they'll be ready.