The decaying building at the former Waterloo Greyhound Park site will soon face the wrecking ball.
It’s been a long time coming. For more than 20 years, the Waterloo Greyhound Park building stood as a hulking reminder of a gamble that lost. Each year it became an increasingly depressing sight for Cedar Valley residents who often drive by the area. No doubt, the sight left visitors passing through the area wondering why such an eyesore was sitting in such a premier spot.
Finally, the end is near.
As reported in the May 6 Courier, the National Cattle Congress, Meskwaki Nation and Deer Creek Development were able to come to an agreement that unlocked years of legal entanglements.
Deer Creek has been developing land around the track and will acquire the 64-acre Greyhound Park site, which is now tabbed for additional development. The deal also resolves the dispute between the NCC and Meskwaki Nation, also known as the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa — a dispute that has lingered for far too long.
The nonprofit NCC opened the Waterloo Greyhound Park in 1986 to increase revenue for its fairgrounds and annual exposition. But the facility began losing money as casinos and additional gaming operations opened around the state.
In 1995, the tribe extended a $9.1 million line of credit to support the NCC as it was going through a bankruptcy reorganization.
The NCC emerged from bankruptcy in 1996 but has not made payments on the promissory notes. Interest has increased the initial debt to $13.9 million. While the NCC disputed the debt, a district court judge last year had ruled in favor of the tribe’s right to foreclose on NCC properties.
To their credit, the parties continued out-of-court discussions.
Deer Creek Development mediated the deal.
“To finalize this agreement, the Meskwaki Tribal Council more than met the NCC half way,” said Harold Youngblut, president & CEO of Deer Creek. “Meskwaki and NCC were most gracious in their dealings with Deer Creek Development and enough cannot be said about all parties coming together to bring this agreement to fruition. Everyone needed to be flexible, make concessions and work with one another to accomplish this deal.”
For years, the empty building has loomed at a major highway confluence without a purpose. The festering situation drew public cries for action last year when the “Forgotten IA: Lost and Abandoned Places of Iowa” Facebook page posted video detailing the decay at the track — showing the broken windows, overgrown weeds and vulgar graffiti overtaking the building.
No TIF or other governmental funding was used for Deer Creek Development’s acquisition of the 64-acre parcel where the building sits. Additional terms of the deal have not been disclosed.
But the fact these three entities got together to finally hammer out an agreement is a great victory for the entire Cedar Valley. The news a successful local company will take control is a bonus.
“This is a win-win-win situation for all three organizations — and a win for the city of Waterloo,” said Waterloo Mayor Quentin Hart. “Tearing down the Greyhound Park will be a catalyst to revitalize the Greenbelt Centre development, bring new businesses and jobs to the city and increase our tax base. How exciting it will be to have an attractive property to showcase to visitors coming to our city from the south.”
There have been efforts over the years to rejuvenate the area — proposals such as placing a casino or a stock car racing track at the park. But all previous attempts fell through.
We’re certain this was an excruciating process and concessions had to be made all the way around. Meskwaki Nation seemingly held substantial legal leverage, so we’re overjoyed middle ground on this matter has finally been found and that NCC is able to maintain ownership of its historic properties, such as the fairgrounds and Electric Park Ballroom.
We look forward to seeing new development at this site which has been a sore spot for so long.