News and Tribune

January 17, 2013

MORRIS: Horseshoe Foundation is Floyd County's rich uncle

By CHRIS MORRIS
chris.morris@newsandtribune.com

— It’s always nice to have a rich uncle living down the street. If something breaks or you need a little spending money, all you have to do is ask the nice, wealthy uncle. 

He always says yes, right? 

The Horseshoe Foundation of Floyd County has been New Albany and Floyd County’s rich uncle for the past 13 years. When municipalities, organizations, nonprofits and educational institutions need something, they can always ask the foundation. And many times, their wishes are granted. 

To date, the Horseshoe Foundation of Floyd County has awarded more than $28.1 million to local organizations that includes $3.65 million in scholarships for more that 500 high school students.

Without the Horseshoe Southern Indiana or the foundation, New Albany would not have a YMCA branch. The foundation committed $20 million to that project.

Other major grants include $900,000 to Providence Retirement Home, $400,000 to the Indiana University Southeast Library and $500,000 to Hosparus, according to the foundation’s website. But those are just four examples. There are hundreds of organizations and thousands of individuals who have benefited from the generosity of the casino and foundation.

Now, New Albany Mayor Jeff Gahan has his hand out hoping the foundation helps fund a new aquatic center and Little League complex for the city. And why not, it doesn’t hurt to ask.

However, there is only so much to go around and the foundation has commitments it must fulfill like to the YMCA. It has to spend wisely because there are no guarantees the boat will still be in Harrison County five or 10 years from now. 

Also, with gaming revenue down at Horseshoe Southern Indiana, the foundation will receive less money to hand out. Whether the city receives help for the proposed projects is still unknown. However, if I was a betting man, I would say the mayor won’t get everything he wants, but still may receive a little help from the county’s rich uncle.

This all intrigues me. Who will ever forget in the mid-1990s when Floyd County voters said no to riverboat gambling — twice. So the boat located in Harrison County, right across the Floyd County line.

Remember the anti-boat campaign, which was both well organized and funded? The folks against the boat said it would bring crime to New Albany, prostitutes would be walking the streets and how our town would go to hell right in front of us.

Like many scare tactics, the campaign worked and voters overwhelmingly defeated the boat. But just think if the boat had docked on the New Albany shoreline. Our city and county would have probably enjoyed a decade of financial peace with the additional tax revenue and more organizations would have benefited from the foundation’s generosity. 

Had the boat located in New Albany, visitors would also not have to drive down and back on the deathtrap that is Ind. 111 to get to the casino. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think the mob has settled in Elizabeth, nor do I believe the town has hookers standing on street corners.

But like this city has done on more than one occasion, we said no to prosperity. And that was not really surprising. Remember, the New Albany City Council approved the YMCA funding package by a slim 5-4 vote a decade ago, and that was after the foundation had made its $20 million commitment.

I always enjoy attending the two ceremonies each year when Horseshoe grants are handed out to deserving organizations. Folks are so happy and excited to have the funds to purchase bleachers at the Floyd County 4-H Fairgrounds or SMARTboards for schools. But I always wonder how many of those attending with smiles on their faces said no to the boat. 

Honestly, I don’t know where we would be as a community without the grants handed out by the Horseshoe Foundation. Obviously, there would be no YMCA, no college scholarships and many organizations would have had to learn to do without a new furnace, a church steeple or funding for a baseball league for disabled children. The organization has made such a positive impact on this community, a community that not once, but twice said no, we don’t want you.

In a way it screams hypocrisy. But luckily for us, we still benefit from the casino being in Harrison County. We benefit to the tune of $28.1 million in the past 13 years.

I have no idea whether Mayor Gahan will have his wish granted. If he does, it would help New Albany move forward with building a new aquatic center or Little League park. That would be nice since Jeffersonville and Clarksville have state-of-the-art swimming facilities and Little League complexes. New Albany always seems to be a step behind when it comes to quality-of-life projects, with the YMCA a notable exception.

However, if the foundation board decides it cannot help New Albany at this time with either project, city officials will have to go in a different direction. We really shouldn’t expect more or blame the foundation for what we don’t receive when it comes to future projects. They have played the role of rich uncle in this county for 13 years.

— Chris Morris is an assistant editor at the News and Tribune. Reach him at chris.morris@newsandtribune.com or at 812-206-2155.