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Head of Western Regional OTB announces plans to retire; Batavia Downs hotel project gets aid

BATAVIA – On the same day that Michael D. Kane announced that he will be retiring as president and chief executive officer of Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp., directors of the Genesee County Economic Development Corp. on Thursday unanimously voted to grant more than $600,000 in tax incentives to developers of a $5.5 million hotel at Batavia Downs.

A native and former mayor of Dansville, Kane has served on the board for 17 years, including the last four and a half as president and chief executive officer.

Kane’s late father, Robert, was chairman of the regional OTB board of directors from 1976 to 2002.

“I have informed the directors that I will be retiring in the not-too-distant future to ensure an orderly transition and to make sure things are done appropriately,” Kane said. “We have made terrific strides over the past four to five years, and I know that we have a number of exciting things going on.”

Batavia Downs, which was purchased by OTB in 1998, has seen a resurgence in recent years as a gaming facility and harness track. It recently completed a multimillion-dollar renovation to its paddock room and will be adding the hotel in an effort to compete with casinos operated by the Seneca Nation and a new casino/hotel complex in the Seneca County town of Tyre.

Western Regional Off-Track Betting is owned by 15 counties and the cities of Buffalo and Rochester, and generates about $27 million per year to those municipalities.

At the Genesee County Economic Development Corp. board meeting, directors voted to give ADK Hospitality, a Buffalo-based investment group, tax abatements totaling $638,191, broken down as follows: sales tax, $262,720; mortgage tax, $46,113; and property tax, $329,358.

ADK, a partnership of Buffalo businessmen, bought a 35,000-square-foot piece of property from the Downs earlier this year for $605,000.

Work already has begun on the hotel, which will be located just east – and connected to – the gaming facility. Some of the hotel’s 84 rooms will overlook the harness track.

Steven G. Hyde, president of the agency, said the hotel project qualifies for assistance because it meets the destination model that calls for an increase in visitors from “outside the economic community” of the nine counties in the Finger Lakes region.

“They were lacking lodging,” Hyde said, “so they integrated it with the destination, attached it to the Downs – with new construction – and backed it by a market study from a very experienced firm (Hotel & Leisure Advisors of Cleveland). The hotel lodging destination will increase outside traffic and that fits within the four corners of what the law allows.”

Hyde said ADK Hospitality’s proposal was not the same as a 2012 request from Clarion Hotel owner Chan Patel that the agency did not approve. Patel had spoken out publicly against any incentives for ADK.

“The Clarion’s project was renovation to existing rooms, not the destination itself … minor renovations that would not have enhanced the facility as a tourist destination.”

Craig Yunker, a director of the agency, said he is confident that the hotel will have a significant impact on Genesee County’s bottom line.

“What was tax-exempt property has been sold to a private developer, which is placing it back on the tax rolls,” he said. “The benefits to the community outweigh any negatives that have been cited.”