Mystery Owner Selling Balmoral Park For $4 Million, And It Can’t Be A Racino Just Yet

Posted By Joe Boozell on December 15, 2020 - Last Updated on August 3, 2021

Balmoral Park is on the market once again, this time for an asking price of $4 million, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The former horse racing track was converted into a horse show-jumping venue in 2017. Balmoral Park hasn’t hosted a harness race since late 2015 when its owners filed for bankruptcy.

The park is located in unincorporated Will County near Crete. Horse Shows in the Sun (HITS), a New York-based company, bought Balmoral Park out of bankruptcy in 2016 for $1.6 million.

HITS performed extensive renovations on the park, removing the oval track and infield while also fixing up the stables. With that said, much of the park remains intact, including the enclosed 4,400-seat grandstand.

Some historical aspects of the park, including the finish line pole, are still in place.

Balmoral Park opened in 1926 as Lincoln Fields. It rebranded under new ownership in 1955.

What’s interesting about this sale, though, is that we don’t know who the current owner is.

Did HITS sale to Phil Goldberg ever finalize?

Last year, HITS confirmed that it had a pending sale to developer Phil Goldberg.

Goldberg had big plans for the site, which included developing a casino and reintroducing harness racing.

But when the Tribune reached out to Goldberg, HITS and Crete city officials for more details, no one returned their messages. Nick Oosting, a real estate agent with Re/Max 2000, said he was not at liberty to identify the seller.

It’s a murky situation because Goldberg’s plans for the park had many obstacles.

For starters, the 2016 sale of the property prohibits any type of gambling, including horse racing and casino gambling, until 2026.

Also, Illinois legislation only allows for a “racino” to operate in one of six Cook County townships. Balmoral Park is not located in one of those townships.

So in order for Goldberg’s plans to come to life, there would need to be some serious reworking of legislation. One has to wonder whether or not that will deter anyone from forking over $4 million for the property.

Heidner tried to buy Balmoral in 2016

Balmoral Park hasn’t hosted a harness race since 2015, but it’s been involved in some controversy over the last few years.

Rick Heidner, who owns the video gaming terminal operator Gold Rush Gaming, wanted to buy the park in 2016 for $1.8 million.

Creditors ultimately preferred the HITS offer, even for slightly less money.

But Heidner still wanted to get into the racing and gambling industry, so he tried to buy the former Tinley Park Mental Health Center and turn it into a racino.

The state planned to sell the facility to the village of Tinley Park, which would sell the land to Heidner.

But Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker put the kibosh on that after learning of Heidner’s involvement, who’s been linked to scandalous figures. It turned out that Heidner had long-standing business ties to a banking family, the Suspenzis, who were involved with the mob.

In 2003, the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) found out that Rocco and Jeffrey Suspenzi hid their ownership stake, as well as that of a reputed mob figure, in the failed Emerald casino project.

Heidner also had a real estate partnership with Dominic Buttitta, who pleaded guilty to an underground bookmaking operation he ran between 2005 and 2009.

Current Illinois racetracks

As of now, there are three horse racetracks in Illinois: Arlington Park, Hawthorne Race Course and Fairmount Park.

However, Fairmount will soon be rebranded to FanDuel Sportsbook and Horse Racing.

FanDuel and Hawthorne have plans to build racinos, just like Goldberg had planned for Balmoral.

At the moment, Arlington Park does not have similar casino plans.

If Balmoral is ever able to operate a racino, it won’t be the first in the Land of Lincoln.

Photo by Bill Kostroun / AP
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Joe Boozell

Joe Boozell has also been a college sports writer for NCAA.com since 2015. His work has also appeared in Bleacher Report, FoxSports.com and NBA.com. Growing up, Boozell squared off against both Anthony Davis and Frank Kaminsky in the Chicagoland basketball scene ... you can imagine how that went.

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