With horsemen in the Windsor area dealing with the shutdown of Windsor Raceway, reports indicate plans for a new racetrack to be built in Essex county.
At last Thursday's OHHA meeting, assocation director Mark Williams confirmed the news to those in attendance.
"We're going to try to build a new racetrack out on the 401, somewhere between Manning and Puce [Roads]," stated Williams. "Grand River-style, five-eighths mile track is what the end game is."
Williams, who is spearheading the project along with area vet Dr. Paul Branton and local businessman Charlie Lawrence, noted that the idea also has the support of local government in the way of Lakeshore Mayor Tom Bain, a long-time horseman and trainer.
"We figured we needed some political help, so we approached Tom Bain," continued Williams. "He was willing to come on board with us."
Bain also addressed the meeting, noting that he has discussed the project with the OMAFRA Transition Panel as well as the Ontario Racing Commission.
"I've been working on the political end. I'm a Liberal - I probably shouldn't say that too loud but I still have a few pulls there," said Bain with a smile. "I've got us in to Dwight Duncan, Sandra Pupatello, got meetings set up with them. The next election may not look very good for them but they're still in power now and that's who we have to deal with."
Both local council and Windsor city council support the project, with Bain stating that Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis "doesn't want to lose the 2,000 jobs that we have now" and is behind them on this endeavour.
According to Bain, key areas for this project to work include "remaining sustainable" without the support of the slots-at-racetracks program, "staying away from Caesars Windsor" so that a new track doesn't take business away from the OLG-operated casino.
In the interim while a track is built, Bain noted that Duncan supported expanding the racing offered at Leamington - one of the two tracks left in Ontario that have offered annual racing at the fair level.
"In our discussions with Dwight Duncan, we told him our plan to go out to Leamington to get started. He seemed to favour that, thought it was good and there would be support for us there."
Plans for racing in Leamington include at least 10 days per year for two to three years. The number of race days must be at least 10 in order for the track to apply for a simulcast licence. Bain understands that the handle will be vital for the purse structure and teletheatre wagering will be a large source of funding.
While the SARP funding will be cut off as of April 2013, Bain told the group that expanded gaming enhancements are not guaranteed but still under consideration. Bain mentioned historical racing and possibly partnering with a native Canadian-operated casino in the Pelee Island area.