Demolition Work Begins At Downs

BERLIN – Demolition work began on the old grandstand at Ocean Downs this week, but even after overcoming a handful of problems with asbestos and structural steel, a new target date for the implementation of slot machines at the historic racetrack remains uncertain.

Crews began dismantling certain elements of the old grandstand at Ocean Downs this week with sections of the roof removed and other areas in the interior of the structure demolished. After the Maryland Video Lottery Location Commission awarded the first slots license in the state to Ocean Downs in September, a rather ambitious plan to install the gaming machines by Memorial Day was announced.

However, the start date was moved back indefinitely in December when a preliminary investigation of the old clubhouse area expected to house the first 600 slot machines revealed a handful of problems with asbestos and the structural steel of the facility. With those obstacles on the verge of being overcome, demolition on the clubhouse began in earnest this week, according to Delaware Park Chief Executive Officer William Fasy.

“We’ve been working through some delays related to asbestos and problems with the structural steel,” he said. “It’s been somewhat of a headache, but we’re hoping to get it all cleared up soon and expect to be done with the demolition elements by the end of the month.”

The video lottery commission in September voted unanimously to approve track owner William Rickman, Jr.’s application for one of five slots licenses in the state with a plan for 800 machines in the short term with the potential to expand to as many as 1,500 in the future. The approval set in motion an ambitious plan to convert the existing 34,000-square-foot grandstand at the track into a gaming facility to accommodate 600 machines at first with an additional 200 added within a year of the casino’s opening.

The plan called for the initial phase of the casino to be up and running by Memorial Day, but a series of unforeseen setbacks put that opening date in jeopardy. It is uncertain what the delays mean in terms of a potential opening date.

“The demolition work was supposed to be done by now, but this has put us about two months behind schedule,” said Fasy. “I can’t really say at this point where that puts us in terms of a timetable for getting slots in here.”