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Roberts Swinging For The Fences


Published: October 14, 2011 4:01 pm ET

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"Make no mistake, nobody at Northlands is happy with the status quo, nobody's happy that our numbers continue to fall. But we're going to go to the ends of the Earth to do whatever we can to promote the product and to build that on-track atmosphere that's going to drive more bodies into this arena."

Chris Roberts jumped at the opportunity to ply his trade at Northlands, where his position as Venue Director of Racing & Gaming allows him to branch out into different experiences and also immerse himself in both thoroughbred and harness racing. Although only four months into his job at Northlands, Roberts clearly wants to help reverse the negative trends in Alberta.

"I think the leadership at Northlands is moving in the right direction. We want to see things happen with racing and we are going to swing for the fences in this coming year on our racing program and really try to generate some intense interest in racing in the Edmonton area."

One of the ways in which Northlands is ahead of the curve is with its pricing: an industry-low 10 percent takeout rate that starts on the harness side this weekend.

"We've got the lowest association commission of any track in North America, we're taking just 10 per cent out of win place and show pools which is, as you know, an extremely low number. We're proud about it, we're going to push it hard in the marketplace and we've had some success on-track this summer pushing that to our thoroughbred clientele and we're happy to take it onto the standardbred scene as well."

Should we expect new initiatives from Northlands in the not-to-distant future?

"2011, for me, is really going to be a time to take it all in, see where we're at, try and baseline what we've done so far," Roberts told Trot Radio's Norm Borg when asked if any new events were on the horizon. "I think 2012 is going to be the year where you see some new events, reaching out in some different areas. We're going to add some pieces to the puzzle."

Roberts also sits on the board of Horse Racing Alberta, who recently conducted an industry planning session in an effort to galvanize the province's horse racing industry. The need for a racing venue in the Calgary market continues to be a major area of concern.

"One thing I've seen in the five months I've been here is that everyone wants to tell you the story about Balzac, where it's at, where it's come from and it's a very convoluted tale. People just want some certainty...and that's very, very difficult in Alberta when the Balzac target is constantly moving."

Roberts feels that a decision on whether Balzac is yes or no could actually be imminent. That being said, HRA appears to be moving forward as if the UHA project will not come to fruition.

"We just came out of a three-year planning session with HRA, a strategy session and a board session, and I think at this point the industry in Alberta is simply moving forward under the assumption that Balzac is not going to happen," stated Roberts. "If Balzac does happen at some point in the future, it will only be a positive to the industry at that point but I think we need to move forward with the bird we've got in hand - that is Northlands, that is Lacombe, that is Grande Prairie and Lethbridge, and we need to build a three-year business plan on those tenets."

To listen to the full interview with Roberts and Borg, click the play button below.

Episode 230 – Northlands' Chris Roberts
Audio Format: MP3 audio
Host: Norm Borg

Please note that the opinions expressed in the featured interview are those of the participants and do not necessarily reflect Rideau Carleton Raceway and/or Standardbred Canada.

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