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Florence Mayor Celebrates that City Gets to Keep Race Track, Baseball Team

Florence city council discussed the recent sale of Turfway Park to Churchill Downs, a move that followed Churchill's original announcement that it would seek to build its own Northern Kentucky facility and until that happens, would seek Turfway's winter race dates.

Ultimately, Churchill decided to buy Turfway, tear it down, and build something new there, called New Turfway.

The deal was approved by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

Churchill closed on the sale on October 9, Florence Mayor Diane Whalen said.

Whalen said Churchill plans to keep the same building in place through March of next year with its winter dates. Demolition will follow, and a new facility is expected to be open in 2021.

Whalen said Churchill will renovate the entire property, not just the grandstand, noting that the horse barns and jockey quarters had fallen into disrepair.

Florence dodged the loss of its race track just months after its minor league baseball team, the Florence Freedom, were sold leaving some to question whether the team would stay at UC Health Stadium. Ultimately, the city gets to keep its race track and baseball team.

"With Turfway Park on one end and Florence Freedom on the other, we have a great set of bookends," Whalen said. "We have ended up on the right side of that!"

To that end, Mayor Whalen read a proclamation declaring October 8 as Kim Brown Day in the City of Florence. Whalen praised Brown for rescuing the Florence Freedom team in 2005, along with her late husband, Clint, and then making the decision to carry on with the team after Clint's untimely death in 2018.  

Brown's opinion was crucial in the decision to sell the team recently to a group of businessmen who have pledged to keep the team in Florence, though they are actively looking for a new name.

Whalen mentioned the 12 percent increase in attendance at the games under the Brown's guidance, and said that the team is one of the best in the Frontier League. The Freedom lost in the championship in the 2019 season.

In other business, council adopted an ordinance approving a change in the concept development of the site which is home to Sam's Club. The owners of the property hope to renovate its retail building and add an 8-bay gas station.

Council appointed Kenny Vaught to the Florence Board of Adjustment and Zoning Appeals to fill the unexpired term of Charlie Reynolds. Vaught will serve until June of 2020.

Mayor Whalen also read a proclamation declaring October 23 to October 31 Red Ribbon Week in the City of Florence, which is designated across the country to encourage a drug-free lifestyle and involvement in drug prevention and reduction efforts.

October 14 through October 20 is Clean-Up Week in Florence, and items that are acceptable can be taken to Tanners Lane. 

There will be a drug take-back day on October 26 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with locations at the Government center, Kroger on Mall Road, and Walmart on Houston Road.

The Florence Community Band will have a concert on October 28 at 7:30 p.m. at the Government center. 

Florence will have its Halloween party for children at the Government Center on Tuesday, October 29, from 5 to 7 p.m.

Halloween hours in the city will be 6 to 8 p.m. on October 31.

Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor