LEWISTON — Former Oxford Plains Speedway owners Bob Bahre and his son Gary are new investors in Black Bear Entertainment, the company trying to establish a casino in Oxford County, the group announced Tuesday.
Black Bear Entertainment, which was formed by investors Steve Barber, former president and CEO of Barber foods; Rupert and Suzanne Grover, owners of Grover Gun Drilling Inc.; and Richard Lally, co-owner of Mt. Abram Ski Resort in Greenwood. They initiated the effort to create a four-season resort and casino in Oxford County. Maine voters will cast ballots on the proposal in November.
“I just felt if we can get in this thing and help and get jobs back, it would mean a lot to the area,” Bob Bahre said Tuesday.
A Black Bear Entertainment spokesman has said the casino would create about 1,000 good-paying jobs.
Bahre, who also owned New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon until 2008, said he still has ties to western Maine and was saddened by the number of formerly successful local businesses that have closed in the region.
“When you start adding all those jobs up from all the places that have closed since (I moved to the area in 1963), that’s pretty bad,” he said. “You’ve got Robinson Manufacturing, Cummings Mill, Paris Manufacturing, A.C. Lawrence Leather and others. They’d been there forever and now all those jobs have gone.”
Peter Martin, spokesman for Black Bear Entertainment, said the company was thrilled to have the Bahres on board.
“We had a great group to begin with, but (the Bahres) just bring a whole larger dynamic to the table and they are great people; we’re really happy,” Martin said.
Bahre said he and his son own 40 percent of the company, after being approached by Barber to invest.
Bahre has developed housing all over Maine and still owns several Maine shopping centers, according to a news release. He owned and operated Oxford Plains Speedway from 1964 to 1986 and built the Loudon track with his brother Richard and son Gary in 1990. They sold the track to Speedway Motorsports Inc. in January 2008, though Bob Bahre still works as a consultant for the company. He lives in New Hampshire.