By Gabriel Monte, Freedom New Mexico
TUCUMCARI — Dressed in race-horse attire, an 8-year-old burro named Jack Rabbit gave rides to children Thursday in the Tucumcari Convention Center parking lot.
Many adults in the region are hoping to see some real race horses in the coming months.
“We need something to boost the economy,” said Tucumcari’s Bob Beaulieu, who joined hundreds of other area residents in a show of support for the proposed Coronado Park Racetrack and Casino.
Promoters say the proposed racetrack would bring $60 million into Tucumcari annually, creating 300 full-time and 100 part-time jobs.
Principal investor Don Chalmers said 75 percent of the money the racetrack and casino would generate would come from Texas.
About 1,200 area residents filled the Convention Center during Thursday’s hearing before the New Mexico Racing Commission, according to Quay County Gaming Authority Executive Director Warren Frost. A few told commissioners they don’t want the racetrack built on the east edge of town, but an overwhelming majority said they favored the plan.
“I bet anybody would be hard pressed to think of a time in recent history in Tucumcari when everybody got together to pursue a common goal,” Frost said.
Like many other business owners, Merlinda Turner closed her insurance office at 4 p.m. Thursday so she could show support for the racetrack. If approved by the racing commissioners, she said the project would be a much needed boost to the city’s declining economy and would attract other businesses to the community.
“It’s going to be a big domino effect,” she said.