ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - The horse barns and stables at the state fairgrounds, or Expo New Mexico, are in desperate need of repair. Up until this week, it was up to the Downs at Albuquerque to take care of the barns, but under the new lease that shifts to the state.
From the metal walls falling apart inside the stables to the unpaved roads outside, State Fair Commissioner Charlotte Rode said the barns have been neglected for years.
"See how everything is bowed out and how the doors and actual stables are bowed out from the horses kicking," said Rode. "you see that the (muck bins) are crumbling. You have bathrooms that are in very poor repair."
Rode blames the Downs at Albuquerque, the group that runs the horse track and casino at the state fairgrounds. A year ago, a governor-appointed committee awarded the Downs a controversial 25-year contract with the state to continue running the racino. Under the deal, the Downs will still use the barn year-round, but the state is now required to pay for and maintain them.
"How could they allow a contract where the barns were not in the total control of the racino?" said Rode.
Critics have called the Downs deal dirty from the start, asking how a company notorious for being late on payments and neglecting property could be given another profitable lease. The Downs is building a new casino with more slots closer to Central and Louisiana that could rake in $40 million a year in profits, paying only $1 million more in rent to the state.
Rode wondered why the Downs can't continue paying for the bars, but state fair officials said they will.
"It's rolled into lease payments they make," said Expo New Mexico Spokesman Michael Henningsen.
Henningsen also said the state can now do whatever it wants with the 45-acre plot f land.
"We do now have that option to raise those barns if we wanted to and put anything from a parking structure to a sporting goods store in there," said Henningsen.
This week, Expo New Mexico officials will be taking a look at what repairs the barns need. Officials insist the Downs will be billed for any major damage.