Negotiations for the purchase of the Yavapai Downs horse racetrack continue between the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of Rural Development and Gary Miller, former president of the group that represents Arizona horsemen.
The federal agency holds about $14.7 million worth of loans on the 11-year-old racetrack facilities in Prescott Valley, so it has final say on the purchase.
Miller submitted the top bid of $3.25 million for the track facilities during a bankruptcy court auction April 3, but three days later the federal government rejected the bid.
After unsuccessfully trying to find a better offer, including negotiating with the second-highest bidder, the feds called him a few weeks later, Miller said.
"I find the USDA really positive now, and they want to get a deal rolling," Miller said.
"There's still ongoing negotiations," said Dianna Jennings, public affairs officer for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Arizona. The principal USDA negotiators were out of the office Thursday and Friday and unable to provide more details, she said.
Jennings said she didn't know if the feds are negotiating with anyone other than Miller, and Miller said he is unaware of any other bidders at this time.
Miller said he's submitted a higher bid for the track.
"I think I've given them a fair offer," he said. "Do I think we're close? I don't know, but I hope so."
The facilities include a one-mile horse racetrack, the 93,328-square-foot grandstands, about 860 horse stalls and a neighboring car racetrack.
Most of the annual county fair took place on neighboring property, including the Coors Event Center. That property is not part of the sale.
The Downs employed about 300 people each summer alongside hundreds of trainers, jockeys and assistants until it failed to open last year.
"I never stopped thinking we could get this track open, but it's more and more of a long shot for this year," Miller said. The summer season typically ends on Labor Day weekend.
"I'm optimistic about the track opening next year," he said.
USDA Rural Development originally loaned the Yavapai County Fair Association about half the money it needed to build a new $22 million track in Prescott Valley in 2001 to replace the shorter track in Prescott.
The summer racing meet in the Prescott area had been operating since 1960, and horse racing here dates back to territorial days.