After years of legal entanglements, work to remove one of Waterloo's biggest eyesores is about to begin.

A local developer has negotiated an agreement that will result in the demolition of the former Waterloo Greyhound Park and preserve the solvency of National Cattle Congress. The deal was finalized late last month, according to a press release sent out early Sunday morning (May 6, 2018). The release said that Deer Creek Development, the NCC, and the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa -- also known as Meskwaki Nation -- closed on the agreement April 25.

Harold Youngblut / Courtesy: Deer Creek Development
Harold Youngblut / Courtesy: Deer Creek Development

“To finalize this agreement, the Meskwaki Tribal Council more than met the NCC halfway,” said Harold Youngblut, president and CEO of Deer Creek Development. “Meskwaki and NCC were most gracious in their dealings with Deer Creek Development and enough cannot be said about all parties coming together to bring this agreement to fruition. Everyone needed to be flexible, make concessions and work with one another to accomplish this deal.”

Youngblut's son and the development’s attorney, Michael Youngblut, mediated the deal, the press release said.

Under the agreement, National Cattle Congress will be able to keep its fairground property and the historic Electric Park Ballroom. The deal also allows Deer Creek Development to acquire and develop the 64-acre parcel of land where the dilapidated dog track now stands.

According to the press release, no tax increment financing (TIF) or other government funding was used for the acquisition. Additional terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

“We believe that this is a win for not just the parties involved but for the general public as well.” said Anthony Waseskuk, tribal chairman. “The Cattle Congress will continue to provide entertainment to the residents of Black Hawk County, the City of Waterloo will finally see the eyesore known as the Waterloo Greyhound Park demolished and the tribe will receive a fair settlement under the original agreement with the Cattle Congress. The Tribe values traditions and the annual Cattle Congress Fair has been a tradition in Black Hawk County for generations much like our annual Pow-Wow held in August every year.”

The deal brokered by Deer Creek Development resolves a long-running legal battle between the National Cattle Congress and Meskwaki tribe, which holds a lean on the dog track property and recently started foreclosure proceedings against NCC.

Photo By: Elwin Huffman - Townsquare Media
Photo By: Elwin Huffman - Townsquare Media

The nonprofit National Cattle Congress opened Waterloo Greyhound Park in October 1986 to increase revenue for its annual fair, but the dog track began losing money. After Black Hawk County voters narrowly rejected two referenda to allow slot machines at the track in 1994, NCC filed for bankruptcy reorganization. Then, in 1995, the tribe loaned NCC $9.1 million to keep the organization operating.

The last live race at Waterloo Greyhound Park was run on May 1, 1994, but the track stayed open for simulcast betting -- wagers placed on live races at other tracks across the nation that were being shown on in-house monitors -- for another two-plus years. As part of the Meskwaki's loan agreement, the dog track closed permanently in July 1996. The facility has sat empty since then.

Over the years, vandals have left their mark on the shuttered dog track. The vacant building currently sits at a major highway interchange with broken windows, graffiti and overgrown weeds.

The three-party agreement announced on Sunday will allow the building to be razed. Demolition of the former Waterloo Greyhound Park is scheduled to begin later this month, the press release said. Woodlands Construction Inc., a tribally charted corporation owned by the Tribe, will do the work.

“We would like to thank both the Meskwaki Tribal Council and Deer Creek Development for working together with us to find a solution that was in the best interest of our community,” said Wally Mochal, National Cattle Congress board president. “It will be fantastic to have beautiful new development under way along busy Highways 20 and 63. And, we could not be more thankful for our continued ability to maintain ownership of the historic Electric Park Ballroom and our fairgrounds, plus be able to operate the fair for years to come.”

Specific businesses that will be added to the parcel of Deer Creek Development’s Greenbelt Centre haven't yet been determined, according to Harold Youngblut. He said projected businesses could be anything from “restaurants and retail to a hotel and a convention center.”

“This is a win-win-win situation for all three organizations—and a win for the City of Waterloo and the entire Cedar Valley,” Waterloo Mayor Quentin Hart said. “Tearing down the greyhound park will be a catalyst to revitalize the southern entrance to Waterloo. And as the Greenbelt Centre continues to expand, it will bring new businesses and jobs to the city and increase our tax base—this will benefit all our residents. How exciting it will be to showcase attractive properties to our visitors coming to our city from our main south entrance.”

Deer Creek Development is a family-owned business of the Harold Youngblut family of the Greater Cedar Valley. The development acquired 122 acres adjacent to the greyhound park in 2005 and branded the area the Greenbelt Centre, which is home to Mauer Eye Center, Love’s Travel Center, Hawkeye Stages and other professional offices.

“It took a lot of hard work by many individuals to complete this agreement,” said Harold Youngblut. “I would like to thank those who were instrumental in bringing this deal together, including Anthony Waseskuk, Jay Finch, Mike Treinen, Wally Mochal, Ken Nelson and Michael Youngblut.”

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