Gaming complex launched in Gretna

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Facility will offer poker and quarter horse racing

By Alice Du Pont

    Helen Franks said Tuesday afternoon that she was so happy she could hardly contain her enthusiam. The Gretna mayor was speaking to a group of about 100 people who huddled in the cold for the groundbreaking ceremony for the Creek Entertainment facility at Gretna.
    "This is a new day for Gretna. This means job growth and economic growth," she said.
    The 100-acre venture is the result of a partnership with Florida developer David Romanik and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians to bring horse racing and a poker facility to the City of Gretna.
    "We are so proud to be standing here. This facility will employ a whole lot of people," said Antonio Jefferson, Gretna city manager.
     It is expected that 400 people will be employed from construction to operations. It is the end result of meetings that started four years ago that included private financiers, Gretna government officials, the county's legislative delegation and the Poach Creek Indians.
    Former State Representative Curtis Richardson said he and former State Senator Al Lawson worked hard to make the project a reality.
    "Sometimes you have to work had to make sure some legislation doesn't pass because it could have hurt this project. I am glad to have played an even small role in making this happen.
    Lawson was singled out for his "not so small" contribution to the project by partner David Romanik.
    "It was our vision to have an equine racing track. It's going to be a fun place to come. This has been a three-to-four-year project and there have been a lot of bumps in the road. Sen. Al lawson deserves the credit for this project," Romanik said.
    Jefferson and the Gretna City Attorney were also lauded for their contributions. Mayor Franks said the two didn't like to be singled out for praise but that they never gave up on the project and worked day and night to see it through.
    "This is a tremendous economic development opportunity for Gretna. It's also an opportunity for us to become a leader among small, rural communities by bringing the economic and recreational benefits of a horse track and equestrian facility to a region where those activities are extremely popular and will be a catalyst for rural economic growth and development," Franks said.
    The new facility will be called Creek Entertainment Gretna and is located just off the Interstate 10 exit at Greensboro. The facility is over 100 acres and will be an equestrian center and quarter horse track. The partnership and project, according to literature distributed at the groundbreaking, will make Gretna a destination for horsemen, spectators, outdoorsmen, poker players, sports enthusiasts and tourists. The expected opening date will be in winter 2011.
    "Horse racing is an integral and popular part of Florida's equine culture that has thus far been limited to South and Central Florida. This region lacks a state-of-the art equestrian facility or horse track. We saw an unmet need in North Florida and wanted to use our expertise and passion for horse racing and equestrian activities to create a gateway community that will become a regional destination in the Red Hills and Big Bend region," Romanik said.
    Keith Martin, PCI gaming chairman, said the gaming will not only provide and entertainment venue for the area but will have a ripple effect in terms of economic development for the community.
    "Our gaming enterprises support existing businesses in the area and serve as a means for other businesses to start. We are excited about this endeavor and the progressive impact it will have on our neighbors here," Martin said.
    "This project will create and innovative public-private partnership that will provide Gretna with significant economic benefits and opportunities," Franks said.
    There are three operating race track and poker rooms in Florida. These facilities employ more than 1,500 full-time employee and generate $5.15 million in state and local sales taxes for the communities they serve.