VIGL Operations LLC, the grantee of the exclusive agreement to operate both the Clinton E. Phipps Racetrack on St. Thomas and the Randall “Doc” James Racetrack on St. Croix, provided an update on its efforts to revitalize the horseracing industry by outlining the ongoing construction projects at each racetrack. They also unveiled the plans for the tracks along with renderings and other details regarding the projects.
The Randall “Doc” James Racetrack is now on its way to a full mile. VIGL Operations LLC has contracted with Eleven to extend the existing racetrack from 7/8 of a mile to a full mile and repair the drainage culverts under the entire track.
“The contractor is on site, and the dirt has begun to move,” said Lance Griffith, chief operating officer for VIGL. “This has been a long time in the making, and I am sure everyone involved is excited to see the start of this very important and key element to bring racing back to the island.” The new running surface, inclusive of the extension, is scheduled to be completed this summer.
On St. Thomas, the next step is to build the new barn complex on the land acquired by VIGL to the east of the track, which will now be known as the Lima Barn and Stable Annex. SSVI has begun the earthwork to level the area and provide access from the new barn site to the track. This work will go into the summer as well and lay the groundwork for the entire project.
“Providing a safe and secure area for the horses and horsemen is a major priority. The new barn complex will allow for the rest of the construction work at the Clinton E. Phipps Racetrack to move forward in a practical and timely manner. We will always make reasonable efforts to facilitate the horsemen while maintaining our primary goal of reconstructing the track to meet industry standards and the community expectations,” said Jason Williams, general manager of racing operations for VIGL.
VIGL has spent over $14 million while working towards the effective date of the franchise agreement. “We want to make the U.S. Virgin Islands the envy of every horseman and racing fan in the Caribbean,” said Griffith.
“Our passion for this project grows with each day. This substantial financial commitment is part of our effort to bring modern, professional, safe, and regulated live racing to the Virgin Islands. We are excited about the future and want to make the racetracks in St. Thomas and St. Croix leaders in thoroughbred racing in our region,” said Andrew Dubuque, chief financial officer of VIGL.
VIGL officials say there is still much more that needs to be done. The Virgin Islands Port Authority is in the process of transferring the RDJ Track from its Aviation Division to the Marine Division in order to have it rezoned to public use. This transfer must be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration. Once the transfer is approved, VIGL can submit the aeronautical survey data for FAA approval. This key piece of the puzzle is necessary to complete the engineering work and submit the building permit application to construct the new barns, stadium, racino, veterinarian clinic and other racing-related facilities.
“We are working through the zoning changes and ready to begin the permitting process as quickly as possible. We look forward to getting all of our approvals so we can begin construction on the racing facilities,” said Fred Bible, senior program manager for HWH1887, which is the construction manager for both racetrack projects.
The company is currently working on extending the track at RDJ to one mile. Once the extension is cut, a new racing surface and rails will be installed. While going through this process VIGL is also updating and repairing the existing barns at RDJ, which include repairing hurricane damage to the roofs and installing new flooring systems in the stalls to allow for cleaner and safer homes for the horses.
On St. Thomas, VIGL has repaired and upgraded the track surface which was destroyed during the hurricanes and flooding in 2017. New safer breakaway railings have been installed and horses are training on the track daily. Repairs have been completed on the current barns and groundwork is starting on the area where the new barns will be built. VIGL also completed the purchase of property directly adjacent to the racetrack and has removed damaged buildings in order to make way for a new entrance into the track.
Additionally, the company made improvements to the paddock area and is maintaining the mangroves in the infield which provides for proper watershed of the area and properties surrounding the track.