Mills Fleet Farm planned for old Delavan dog track

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Jonah Beleckis | September 5, 2017

DELAVAN—Mills Fleet Farm is planning to build a store on part of the old dog track in Delavan, with hopes of Mills opening in fall 2018, Delavan City Administrator Denise Pieroni said.

The concept plan officials shared with the city at a Monday Plan Commission meeting was positively received, Pieroni said. Some city council members were present to also review the plan, although no formal action was taken.

Pieroni said Mills would pay $300,000 to $325,000 in property taxes.

The city is not offering incentives for Mills to build on the property. The property is not in a TIF District, she said.

The city wanted owners of the property to submit a concept plan that covered plans for the whole property, not just the 28 acres planned for Mills, Pieroni said.

Two corporations who own the former dog track at the intersection of Interstate 43 and Highway 50. NRB Land Development Group represents the ownership group.
Commercial Horizons will be developing the site for Mills Fleet Farm, Pieroni said.

Pieroni said everyone is working on a tight timeline. Unless problems arise, the city could formally greenlight the plan in October so Mills could break ground before the end of the year, she said.

The plan for a new store comes in the context of a New York private equity firm's February buyout of Mills and the firm signaling plans for expansion. In five or six years, Mills could see a doubling of stores from 36 to more than 70 throughout the Midwest, according to the company's plans.

That expansion could mean more direct competition with the similarly named Blain's Farm and Fleet, which has 38 stores and is headquartered in Janesville. Although the two have competed in the Midwest for a while, they have mostly stayed out of each other's territories, company officials have said.

The latest local example of that expansion is planned for the former dog track property, which has been largely dormant for years.

The Geneva Lakes Kennel Club had greyhound racing from May 1990 to November 2005. Simulcast off-track betting for races at other venues continued into April 2006, which is when NRB bought the 130-acre racetrack property for $7.95 million.

A few months later, NRB bought the adjoining 70-acre parcel for $6.5 million.
The dog track has remained empty and the buildings were demolished in 2014.

There are not specific plans for the remaining space on the property, but NRB Land Development Group Manager Andrew Teegen said in an email the company is hoping more “traffic from Mills should help kick start other development.”

The concept plan has spaces listed for potential commercial, retail and/or residential uses on the 200 acres.

"The concept plan reflects current expectations that the north half of the property will develop first and will be commercial," Pieroni said in an email. "Development of the south half of the property is longer term"

The next step for the Mills space is to prepare the engineering plan, Pieroni said. That plan can be presented at the Oct. 9 plan commission meeting and then forwarded to the city council Oct. 17.

The Oct. 9 meeting will also serve as a public hearing on the matter, Pieroni said.

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