(Host) The long-defunct Green Mountain Race Track in Pownal could soon be generating electricity.
The track’s owners say prospective tenants are lining up to become part of their proposed Green Mountain Energy Park.
VPR’s Susan Keese has more.
(Keese) The race track is in the middle of 144 acres of broad, flat land bordering Route 7 in the state’s southwest corner.
It had horse racing in the 1960s and early 70s, and greyhound racing after that. The operation employed 700 people at one time.
The track shut down suddenly 18 years ago. The entire property, stadium and all, sold at auction for 250 thousand dollars.
Since then it’s changed hands twice and been through a number of proposals.
(Paustian) "This place is gigantic."
Chic Paustian is with Green Mountain Energy Park, the group that’s owned the property since 2004. The group originally wanted to build housing, but the recession ended that plan.
Paustian says the new plan makes more sense.
(Paustian) "When we first discussed this I said what we should do here is anything that produces energy or gets manufactured to reduce the use of energy, that’s what we should do here. We’re known as the Green Mountain Energy Park now, that’s what we want to be known as… and we’re going to produce green energy."
(Keese) The park is already working with a Massachusetts company called EOS Ventures that wants to build a ten-acre solar panel array at one end of the site.
The project would generate a little over two megawatts of electricity.
It’s been accepted into the state’s Sustainably Priced Energy Development Program. The program guarantees above-market rates for a limited number of renewable energy producers who sell power directly to Vermont utilities.
John Guerin of EOS Ventures says the company is looking for investors to leverage federal and state tax incentives for renewable energy.
(Guerin) "Nothing’s a sure thing, but we feel very optimistic – cautiously optimistic – that this project will be completed."
(Keese) Paustian says Green Mountain Energy Park is also hoping to lease 45 acres to another energy company. He says he can’t say more – except that it’s not wind turbines.
(Paustian) "But it’s going to be big and it’s going to bring a lot of jobs."
(Keese) And jobs are what Pownal needs. The town has lost all its major employers in the last few decades.
Select board chairman Nelson Brownell says most Pownal residents now go out of town, and even out of state, to work now.
(Brownell) "It’d be nice to have a factory come and actually build solar panels or… wood products, everything from pellets to who knows what. There’s a ton of stuff that’s coming on that market now and if the right person gets involved, basically what we’ll end up with is I think a niche that actually has jobs that will stay."
(Keese) Chic Paustian says the park’s first tenant – a producer of wood shavings for stables and farms – could be operating as early as next month.
Riding up in a freight elevator to the water damaged stadium, Paustian shares his vision: the race track grounds humming with energy projects and the old track building bustlinbg with businesses and restaurants.
(Paustian) "See this is how it looks now but if you come back in four months, it’ll be all cleaned up."
(Keese) The 5,000-seat space is the largest indoor stadium in Vermont. Paustian says plans are also in the works to stage some big events there, as early as this summer.
(Paustian) "This’ll be the sports bar, right here."
For VPR News, I’m Susan Keese.