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Grants Pass Downs breaks ground on renovations

The Flying Lark president spearheaded the project that is expected to bring in jobs and tourists.

Posted: Dec 10, 2020 7:43 PM
Updated: Dec 11, 2020 4:52 PM

GRANTS PASS, Ore. — Grants Pass Downs is making some renovations intended to attract more tourists to the Rogue Valley. The Flying Lark President, Mike Thiessen, says everything is scheduled to be finished by October next year.

Since June this year, a tunnel, a soccer field, and full entertainment center have broken ground at the Downs.

Efforts to make these changes include everything from making an architectural selection to signing all of the necessary documents for site plans.

The hospitality center beneath the track has also been upgraded for when fans are welcomed back to watch live horse races again.

“We've added about five tons of sand to the track for horse and rider and jockey safety . . . and then we started on The Flying Lark which is a 35,000 square-foot entertainment center,' said Thiessen.

The addition of historic horse racing machines — something like a cross between a slot machine and a real horse race, where people wager on videos of past races — will allow the Downs to help fund horse racing in Oregon.

A grab-and-go area for refreshments, a sports bar, a winner’s circle, and administrative offices all within the entertainment center alone will call for staff day in and day out. With that amount of space and a full-service restaurant, more jobs are expected to come to Josephine County. Already, those working on construction ranges from 30 to 50 people on-site daily.

“When we open, we project there will be another 150 jobs that'll need to go along with this building . . . not necessarily 100 jobs at one time,” said Thiessen

Thiessen said this is most likely the largest investment ever made in Josephine County Fairgrounds.

“We've put in a tunnel that is between the YMCA and the youth soccer complex that's in the in-field which will give everybody in Southern Oregon and Northern California access for soccer tournaments when can start doing those again.”

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