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AUBURN, Wash. – Ron Crockett glanced out his office window at the Emerald Downs racetrack and said he’s proud of what 19 years of ownership has produced.

But on the day it was announced his Northwest Racing Associates group had a tentative agreement to sell the track to the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, Crockett, 75, said he simply wasn’t prepared to take the venue where it needs to go. The Muckleshoot Tribe has owned the land the track sits on since 2002 and the pending sale could lead to new revenue streams and offset losses from a struggling horse-racing industry.

“For the last 19 seasons, we’ve kept people employed and it needs something more now,’’ Crockett said Thursday after the deal was announced. “I believe that they will take it to another level. I don’t push them for answers on what that means, but as time evolves … we’ll understand what that means.’’

Speculation that the track will import slot machines and other gaming to the premises should heighten now that the Muckleshoots will soon control both the land and the track. It’s also likely the Muckleshoots will add concerts and other non-racing events to the site as a solution to traffic and logistical problems at its nearby Tribe-owned White River Amphitheatre.

The sale, in the works for nearly two years, is expected to close in the next 60 to 90 days once a professional appraisal of the venue is done. The Muckleshoots are staying mum on plans, but Tribal Council Chair Virginia Cross said in a release that Thoroughbred racing will benefit.

“The Tribe’s longstanding support of the state’s Thoroughbred racing industry continues with this transaction,” Cross said. “It is the Tribe’s goal to keep the Thoroughbred horse-racing industry as a viable part of our state’s economy. Emerald Downs sits in the center of the Tribe’s historical homeland and this transaction makes it an important part of our economic development program.”

No sale price was given. Crockett said figures are still being finalized, but plans call for the Muckleshoots to cover the venue’s remaining debt with no additional sale price tacked on.

Crockett declined to put a dollar figure on the amount.

Crockett did say he’s received assurances from the Muckleshoots that jobs at the track — which he estimated at 1,400 to 1,500 during the height of racing season — will be protected. He said business is down roughly 35 percent from when he first took over in June 1996 and a new vision is needed.

One thought is that the Tribe could seek trust status for the facility as “tribal land” from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Such a move would enable the Tribe to move slot machines and other gaming to the site and enjoy state sales-tax exemptions on revenue.

Gaming taking place at many tracks nationwide because — among other things — a portion of the revenue goes to boost the prize purses offered for races. There’s a shortage of Thoroughbred horses nationwide and only tracks offering hefty purses succeed in staging enough races (and with decent sized fields) to stay profitable.

The Muckleshoots have subsidized purses by $11 million since 2004.

Getting the trust status at the track would enable gaming revenue there to have the same tax exemptions the Tribe generates through its nearby casino. Without the trust status, any gaming at Emerald Downs would be fully taxable and potentially siphon away some of the tax-exempt revenues the casino already brings in.

The Muckleshoots previously sought trust status for Emerald Downs when they owned only the land, but were turned down. Owning both the land and the venue that sits atop it could now make it easier to claim it as “tribal land” and obtain the tax exemption.

Crockett is staying on as a consultant to ease the ownership transition.

King County Council Member Pete von Reichbauer, who represents Auburn, said there would be no horse racing in Western Washington today without Crockett.

“Ron Crockett saved an industry and in the process, saved thousands of jobs that are directly or indirectly tied to Emerald Downs,’’ von Reichbauer said.

But he added that, just like pro sports teams now owned by conglomerates instead of individuals, the business of racing was becoming a challenge for a man in his 70s. Von Reichbauer is hopeful the Muckleshoots can add “new synergies’’ with their other entertainment operations and help Emerald Downs thrive again.

“You cannot survive with an average age of 60,’’ von Reichbauer said of the track’s patrons. “You have to find ways to take the demographics down with concerts and other activities.’’

Crockett says he’s all for that. He says horse racing has changed dramatically since he bought into the sport in 1974.

“When I was doing it in the 1970s and ’80s, it was a hobby for me,’’ he said. “And now, it seems like it’s more of a business for people. You’ve kept intact the commercial breeders, and more of the Mom and Pop types have gone away.’’

But he’s proud of what he’s leaving behind. Fixtures at the track, which cost $81 million to build, have been kept updated and in pristine condition ahead of the anticipated sale.

In the end, he says, the Muckleshoots won’t have to do much with the venue itself other than finding new ways to make money off it.

“It’s just time for them to come in,’’ Crockett said. “I think the industry itself is healthy. Not as vibrant as it was for me on Day 1, but hopefully they can take it forward from here.’’

Scott Hanson of The Seattle Times also contributed to this article. Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or