Longwood greyhound racetrack being sold

Developer under contract to purchase 31 acre property

LONGWOOD, Fla. – A little more than a year before pari-mutuel greyhound racing is outlawed in Florida under a new constitutional amendment, the Sanford Orlando Kennel Club is in the process of being sold, News 6 has learned.

"We are clear to announce to you all tonight that (the dog track) is now under contract with Wood Partners Group for a mixed-use development to go there," Longwood City Manager J.D. Cox said at a city commission meeting last week.

Wood Partners has launched several mixed-use projects nationwide under the name Alta, including the Alta Apartments now under construction on Warren Street in Longwood.

"It's enormous.  That's not an understatement," Longwood Mayor Matt Morgan told News 6 in reaction to the proposed sale.  "This makes the opportunity in moving this city forward boundless."

An online advertisement shows the 31 acre property between Ronald Reagan Boulevard and U.S. 17-92 was originally listed for $7,350,000.

"The city is landlocked," said Morgan, pointing out that few large parcels of land are available for development in Longwood.  "This is (the equivalent) of beachfront property for our city."

Representatives from Wood Partners did not immediately respond to an inquiry about the potential sale submitted on its website by News 6.

Penn National Gaming Inc., which owns the Sanford Orlando Kennel Club, would not discuss the sale or the last date of racing at the facility.

"Unfortunately, as is our longstanding company policy, we cannot comment on potential business opportunities we may or may not be exploring. Thanks for your understanding," Eric Schippers, the company's senior vice president of public affairs and government relations, wrote in an email to News 6.

Last year Florida voters approved an amendment to the state's constitution that will prohibit pari-mutuel greyhound racing after Dec. 31, 2020.  

Four racetracks have already ended racing ahead of the deadline, according to Grey2K USA Worldwide, an organization that helped generate support for the amendment. 

"Across the state, the end of greyhound racing is creating exciting new opportunities for community growth and prosperity," said Carey Theil, the organization's executive director.  "The closure of Sanford Orlando Kennel Club is a victory for all dog lovers in Central Florida. Over the last two years, 147 greyhound injuries have been reported at the track, including 106 dogs that suffered broken legs and nine dogs that died."

Some supporters of greyhound racing have proposed a lawsuit in hopes of blocking the constitutional amendment from taking effect next year.

Earlier this month a member of the Florida Greyhound Association filed a lawsuit against the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation seeking compensation for the loss of his business as a kennel owner.

About the Author:

Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter Mike DeForest has been covering Central Florida news for more than two decades.