BY SHARI JO SORCHYCH | SEPTEMBER 15, 2010
Francia named Turf Paradise General Manager
CAVE CREEK – Vincent Francia, five-term Mayor of Cave Creek, has been promoted to General Manager of Turf Paradise. Former General Manager Eugene Joyce resigned the end of July due to personal reasons and “to pursue other opportunities,” according to Francia.
Although Jerry Simms, Turf Paradise owner and dear friend of Francia, had interviewed a couple of candidates (industry news, like the resignation of a general manager, travels fast), Simms asked Francia to step in. Simms wanted to avoid “someone new shaking things up” by making the changes one would anticipate from a newcomer to the organization.
Francia faces “more responsibility and more stress,” similar to but more intense than the term he served in the GM position from 1990-1994. “The demands are considerably greater” at present than they were then. Although his responsibilities have consumed 12-14 hour days over the last five weeks he knows it will be better when the track opens October 1.
Francia sees a synergistic energy flow between his two positions. They both deal with people and trying to make something better.
The Turf Paradise General Manager shares worries about the track with the department heads; the Mayor of Cave Creek shares worries about the town with the Town Manager and staff.
Over the 25 years Francia has been involved in the racing industry, he says “no matter how down on their luck they get, people never lose their dreams.”
The industry, built on the horses and the people who bet on them, is struggling. Francia says the economy has caused owners to get out of the sport.
Turf Paradise marketing has been turned over to Amelia Blanco, Francia’s wife, who has years of experience working with Francia. Thirteen Department Heads report to Francia in his new role as General Manager.
Francia sees clearly the vitally important role of each Department Head. They must not only consider but also offer new ideas, cost cutting measures and new and better techniques with respect to their departments and Turf Paradise, which has a $300 million impact on the Arizona economy, ranging from agriculture (hay and oats) to thoroughbred owners to breeders. It is the second major draw after Cactus League Baseball.
If you greatly simplify the breakdown of the wagering dollar, this is what it looks like:
80 cents goes to the winner’s purse
9 cents goes to the horsemen’s purse
9 cents goes to the track
2 cents goes to the State of Arizona
Francia has played and continues to play a role as lobbyist for the racing industry.
Legislatively, after the election when they know with whom they will be dealing as Governor, slot machines at the track (known as racinos) are being proposed. They will not only increase Arizona revenue from the racing industry (30-35 percent of the take is proposed), but also create better purses and increased participation from breeders, raising the quality of racing in the state. Maricopa County will benefit as will municipal job creations programs.
Technology has expanded the business with 60 off-track betting locations within the U.S. (Arizona will hopefully become one of the internet betting states, but thanks to Sen. Jon Kyl, not quite yet) and 1200 throughout the U.S. and 6 foreign countries. U.S. Bet televises the races and allows for betting across state and international lines.
Turf Paradise is located at 1501 E. Bell Road in Phoenix. For racing schedules, menus for the restaurants (the food is great!) and more information please visit www.turfparadise.com.
Photo by Shari Jo Sorchych