Scarborough Downs to be sold to development group

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SCARBOROUGH — A new investment group says it has an agreement to acquire Scarborough Downs for an undisclosed amount of money.

A feasibility study will be done to see whether harness racing should continue, according to Cohassett, Massachusetts, developer Thomas Powers, who is one of the investors.

Denise Terry, the track’s vice president of finance and the daughter of owner Sharon Terry, could not be reached to confirm the agreement. Sharon Terry’s attorney, Ed MacColl, is out of the country and unavailable, according to his office.

The property, totalling 480 acres off Route 1, could be developed into a “mixed-use, live, work and play” project, Powers said. He said plans are “very preliminary” and there are no more specific details.

Powers said the group signed the agreement March 1. He declined to say when it is expected to be finalized, or how much the group will pay. 

According to published reports, Terry has asked $7.5 million for the grandstand/clubhouse, barns, half-mile track and outlying land. 

Powers, who is a partner in Powers Realty, Development & Consulting and president of Powers Management Co., said he and investors from the Boston area and Maine have set up an investment group called  Scarborough Downs Development LLC.

The group is still in the due diligence phase and assessing the property and its potential, Powers said. 

“We are excited about it,” he said. “It is a unique and interesting opportunity.”

Powers said a feasibility study will be conducted to evaluate the race track’s viability.

He said it has “a lot of deferred maintenance,” and the investors would like to rebrand, recapitalize, and refurbish the track if it is feasible.

The study will help determine how much work needs to be done at what cost, and if there would be a return on the investment, he said.

Racing starts Saturday, March 25, and Powers said the expectation is that it will continue through at least the 2017 season, but a final decision will not be made until the feasibility study is completed.

He said while the property includes 480 acres, there are about 330 acres of dry, usable land that can be developed. 

Powers has met with town officials to discuss what is “practical and reasonable” for site development, and said the group wants to propose a project that is beneficial to the town. 

Town Manager Tom Hall said Powers “was not attracted to the site for the track or potential gaming, but since it exists he wants to see if it can support itself.”

“We had a very productive meeting,” Hall said. “He was interested in our perspective.”

Hall said the town is concerned the property would be “piecemealed out” and town officials are happy that the parcel is being sold under one contract.

“It’s an iconic and an intriguing property for the town,” Hall said. “It will be great if it was fully integrated into the community.”

Hall said zoning of the property affords a great deal of flexibility. 

He said the investment group seems to have the resources to execute the project, and the town is “intensely interested in how it develops.”

“We are extremely pleased that he seems to be in it for the long game,” Hall said.

Hall said a large mixed-use project would not be simple or inexpensive, and speculated a project of that size could involve a $100 million investment and a 20-year build-out.

Mike Cushing, vice president of the Maine Harness Horsemen’s Association, said members hope racing continues at Scarborough Downs.

Scarborough has about 100 race days a year from March to December, about double of the state’s only other harness racetrack in Bangor. There are also nine county fairs that have racing during the summer and fall.

“We look for a place to race. There are hundreds of Maine horsemen that need to make a living, and we are open to racing wherever it is offered,” Cushing said. “(If) it is sold I hope that the new owners continue to race.”

Melanie Sochan can be reached at 781-3661 ext.106 or msochan@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter@melaniesochan.

Scarborough Downs is under contract to be sold to a group of Massachusetts and Maine investors, who plan to redevelop the property.

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