Grand Prairie officials broke ground on Saturday for a planned $97 million horse racing track that will be partly built with municipal bonds that could be sold by next year.
Local dignitaries and representatives of the Lone Star Jockey Club, the private group that was awarded a racing license to operate in the Dallas area, turned shovels of dirt and predicted the track could be open in two years.
However, before construction begins and any bonds are sold, the track operators must resolve a lawsuit from a rival group whose application was rejected.
The suit asks the Texas racing commission to stop construction of the track until an environmental evaluation can be completed.
Wayne Usry, Grand Prairie's finance director, said none of an anticipated $65 million in tax-exempt bonds will be sold until all legal challenges have been resolved and the track has an uncontested license to operate.
In January, Grand Prairie voters approved a half-cent increase in the sales tax for up to 20 years to help build the track and related facilities. Because of tax law restrictions, Usry said only a small amount of the bonds are likely to be tax-exempt.
The track is expected to bring hundreds of jobs to the Dallas suburb, as officials estimate the track will draw up to 20,000 people a day.
Grand Prairie is one of three proposed horse tracks in Texas that plan to use up to a total of $300 million of municipal bonds. Houston and San Antonio also have proposals.
But those proposals are not moving as fast as the Grand Prairie track.
"Nothing is really happening right now," said a Texas bond lawyer working on one of the proposed tracks. "All I can say is that a [bond-issuing] corporation has been established."