Kevin Kaufman, general manager of the Tristate’s newest gaming attraction, loves to show visitors around the Belterra Park Gaming & Entertainment Center in Anderson Township.

“One thing I hear over and over when I bring people through here is, ‘Wow! This place is amazing.’ It gives me a thrill when I hear that,” he says. “There’s a lot of buzz in the community about what we’re building.”

The $300 million gaming and thoroughbred racetrack built on the 122-acre former River Downs site is headed down the stretch, set to open this spring.

Contractors for Pinnacle Entertainment Inc., which bought the nearly 90-year-old track in 2011 are finishing the new 48,000-square-foot gaming center with 1,500 video slots, six restaurants and a 4,500-square-foot grandstand overlooking a relocated mile-long thoroughbred racetrack and off-track betting facility.

The company asked the Ohio State Racing Commission for permission to start racing on May 8. However, Kaufman says because of the uncertainty about the weather and possible spring flooding along the Ohio River from the winter’s heavy snow, the company hasn’t yet committed to an official opening date. He envisions a weeklong series of grand opening events, starting at the gaming center and culminating with live racing. The horses will run Thursday to Sunday through Oct. 19.

“It’s been a rough winter. Everything is on schedule, but we don’t want to pin ourselves down and the river comes up and we have high water,” says Kaufman, previously vice president and general manager of Pinnacle’s Belterra Casino Resort & Spa down river in Vevay, Ind.

The Tristate gaming market is getting crowded with the opening of the Horseshoe Casino downtown just over a year ago and Miami Valley Gaming & Racing outside Monroe in December, but Kaufman isn’t worried about the competition.

“I respect what they do, but I can’t control what they do. I think we have a wonderful location, backed up with superior guest services,” he says.

Pinnacle sees Belterra Park as a key piece of a growing entertainment district along Kellogg Avenue that includes Riverbend Music Center and Coney Island. “Like real estate, it’s all about location and we believe we have a great location,” Kaufman says.

It’s not just the gaming and live racing, which includes Ohio’s only turf track.

“We’re putting a big focus on our food and beverage offerings that will be head-and-shoulders above the crowd,” he says.

Dining options include: Stadium Sports Bar; Market Buffet, with seven cooking stations; a casual dining steak and pasta restaurant overlooking the paddock area with its own private terrace; Burger Brothers, featuring fresh-made hamburgers; Nosh, featuring coffee, pastries and sandwiches; and the typical grandstand concessions from pretzels to bratwursts.

The key to Belterra Park’s success will be its employees, Kaufman says.

“We believe our team members are our greatest asset,” he says. “We want them to be the best.”

Belterra Park is accepting online and in-person applications for most of its 700 positions. Full-, part-time and seasonal positions range from the people handling and assigning racing silks to “Ladies and Gents of Belterra Park”—knowledgeable, outgoing folks who will serve guests.