051917bp-greyhound-park

The former Waterloo Greyhound Park is decaying as its fate sits in the hands of the court system.

WATERLOO — A local developer and city officials are working to secure the demolition of the former Waterloo Greyhound Park.

Deer Creek Development, which created the Greenbelt Centre business park, has been negotiating with the property owners about acquiring the vacant and decaying dog track property at U.S. Highways 63 and 20.

City Council members voted unanimously Monday to add the property to the city’s contract with Deer Creek, which could allow for incentives to help raze the building and redevelop the site.

Deer Creek’s ability to do anything with the track will require cooperation from parties currently engaged in a legal battle over its ownership.

“We’re hopeful that something will take place with that pretty soon,” said Mike Youngblut, son of Deer Creek founder Harold Youngblut. “It’s the front porch of Waterloo; everybody sees it when they come and go.”

Waterloo Greyhound Park, which opened in 1986, has been deteriorating rapidly since dog racing and simulcasting ceased more than 20 years ago.

The nonprofit National Cattle Congress Inc., which owns the track and had leased it to a variety of businesses over the years, had been hoping at one point to sell it to a trucking company.

But the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa foreclosed on the property, claiming it was owed nearly $14 million from a line of credit extended to the NCC during its 1995 bankruptcy reorganization.

A district court judge ruled last June the tribe had the right to seize the NCC property, including the track and the downtown fairgrounds. NCC, which claimed it was not required to repay the promissory notes, appealed that ruling to the Iowa Supreme Court on Feb. 5.

Youngblut said Deer Creek has had discussions with both tribal officials and the NCC about the track property. While hopeful a solution can be reached, he said there was “an infinite number of moving parts” complicating the process.

Many have complained the city hasn’t taken code enforcement action against the track or issued fines.

But Community Planning and Development Director Noel Anderson said the situation is complicated because the Sac and Fox Tribe claims “sovereign nation” status, under which certain government codes may not apply.

The city had previously been planning to seize the site under Iowa Code 657A but halted the process when the tribe claimed sovereignty and came to the table for negotiations, he said.

The addition of the greyhound park to the Deer Creek development agreement came as council members extended the city’s annual $200,000 payments to the developer for roads, sewers, gas and electric utilities extended in the area.

Deer Creek has invested more than $4 million into developing about 100 acres of farmland between Black Hawk Creek and U.S. 63 from Ridgeway Avenue south to near U.S. 20. The area now includes a number of projects including Mauer Eye Center, Love’s Travel Center, Hawkeye Stages and other professional offices.

The original 2006 development agreement requires the city to reimburse Deer Creek for its infrastructure investment through property taxes generated by the new businesses.

But the process has taken longer than the original 10 years envisioned at the start.

“At the time the original agreement was executed, everyone expected fast, quick, rapid development and that the taxes that would come in would far exceed the $200,000 a year payment,” Youngblut said. “It’s taken a little longer. Part of that has been because of the former greyhound park sitting out there.”

Councilman Bruce Jacobs said it was worthwhile to keep working with Deer Creek even if the dog track acquisition falls through.

“Whether we can solve that piece of it or not, let’s not let that be the piece that stops us on all the rest of it,” Jacobs said. “If we can’t get that one building let’s still proceed around it.”

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Waterloo City Reporter

Waterloo city reporter for the Courier

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