With the signing on Monday of a five-year lease deal to keep Monmouth Park up and running, Oceanport officials were able to exhale knowing that the borough's top taxpayer and employer was staying put.
"It eliminates uncertainty for this season," said Oceanport Mayor Michael Mahon following Tuesday's join council and board of education meeting at Maple Place School.
The New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association signed an initial five-year lease deal with the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority this week, which the mayor said included three 10-year extensions.
The operating lease protects Oceanport's tax payment, according to a release from the mayor's office, and the repayment of a $23 million loan for environmental remediation.
Mahon said the borough has "a great relationship" with the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association and that both entities share similar goals.
"We have the same vision (for the racetrack)," said Mahon of the borough and the Thoroughbred Horsemen, "which is to be more than just a host for horse racing."
Councilman Joseph Irace said in a phone call on Wednesday that "it's hard to make money when you're running a venue for three months out of the year."
He said a number of ideas have been suggested to increase the duration of the track's season, including the addition of a steakhouse or sports bar or creating a "boardwalk-type" entertainment center with shops and eateries.
There are also a number of events already scheduled at Monmouth Park including concerts, the New Jersey Marathon, festivals and a circus, according to the release.
Mahon said on Tuesday that stretching operating days at Monmouth Park from the 71 days the park operates with mainly horse racing would bring more jobs to the area.
"The more we go from 71 to 365," said Mahon of the track's operating days, "the better we will be."
Editor's note: An earlier version of this article said the mayor hoped to add VLT's, slot machines and a gaming casino to Monmouth Park. Mahon would like to see those features added to the Meadowlands, not Monmouth Park.