Sunland shines for Fulton

Dec 31, 2001 11:22 PM

For years, Sunland Park, operated by the Shelhamer family, languished as an almost non-entity in the thoroughbred-racing world.

Even when the track changed hands, there was little promise for growth. That’s when the state of New Mexico realized that it needed to do something to save the industry. The route the state took was to permit slot machines at the track.

Meanwhile, gaming legend Stan Fulton, decided to give up his role as chairman of Anchor Gaming, a company he founded, and retire from that portion of the gaming industry. However, since Anchor, through acquisitions, listed Sunland Park among its assets, Fulton saw an opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream. That was to own his own racetrack. So, as part of selling his Anchor position to the company, he included as part of the deal the purchase of Sunland Park.

The timing could not have been better. Because of the addition of slots to its gambling mix, Sunland Park has seen its revenues quadruple in the past two years. Now, with the prospects of doubling the size of its casino floor, from 300 machines to 600 machines, Sunland is preparing for the additional business with a $15 million renovation and expansion project.

A two-story addition to the casino to provide space for the new machines will include a new restaurant with a view of the racetrack and a “Signature Showroom” where entertainers will perform before audiences of up to 600 attendees.

But brightening Fulton’s heart is the dramatic increase in the quality of Sunland Park’s racing. During the current 78-day meet, the track will pay out over $10 million in purses. The stakes program lists 15 races with purses of $100,000 or more, enough to attract horsemen from California’s tracks.

Revenues may not double with the additional slots but more growth is assured for both Sunland Park and Stan Fulton.