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UHA Update On Balzac

Published: April 12, 2013 4:49 pm ET

Last Comment: April 12, 2013 5:55 pm ET | 1 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

The United Horsemen of Alberta recently provided the provincial racing industry with an update regarding the much anticipated racetrack project in Balzac, located just outside Calgary's northern city limits.

The update came March 3 during the Alberta Standardbred Horse Association's annual general meeting. Darcy Marler, president of the UHA, provided an update on the status of the raceway, which many in the province are banking on being a beacon of stabilization for racing in the province.

Marler's presentation, which brought those in attendance up to speed on where the raceway stood, was followed by a question and answer period.

Marler explained that the UHA's partnership with Century Casinos has really taken the Balzac racetrack project to the next level.

"With Century we have legal contracts and have now moved to the next stage to deal with AGLC (the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission) and the county," Marler said. "The AGLC deal was finalized with Century in November 2012. It’s a five-step process (and) we have been stuck in step four, but now with Century we have the process completed on our part, AGLC have been coming back and forth with questions, etc., so we’ve been answering."

Marler explained that the UHA has been able to put together blue prints and architectural drafts so it can go through the project with the AGLC to ensure everything is correct.

"The development permits with Rockyview… we have done that and submitted to Rockyview in January. There used to be a master plan with everything, but we had to adjust that for now and it has also been sent to Rockyview."

During his address, Marler positively stressed that the Balzac project has "never been at this point."

"We are hoping by May/June that we might get finals from the AGLC and the Rockyview. As soon as we get approved by Rockyview, for the development permit and AGLC, then the money from Century kicks in and we are hoping that it will all continue smoothly. We have never been this close and this optimistic. We continue to have good support from Shirley (Horse Racing Alberta Chair of the Board Shirley McClellan) and HRA, now the racing license had been approved for 10 years from 2012 to 2022," said Marler, who added that "Minister [of Finance Doug] Horner has been nothing but supportive."

In discussing the physical facility and grandstand in particular, Marler said that the blueprints call for "tiered dining and some race seating inside, so you can see the races. It’s an eleven-sixteenth track, we physically cannot build a mile track now, and we have tried to make the track good for both breeds. We could have gone with the standard seven-eighths of a mile (track), but we decided since we are starting from scratch [we can] improve on what we have already."

Marler did state that with all the positive news regarding the project's progress, there are some minor issues that have arisen.

"To be honest, the one thing we have a problem with and still have to work out is the barns," he said. "We are not sure what we will do. Currently we are building the track around the six barns there now. The barns are not built so that they can be easily moved. Physically, we have to move three of them for sure. The way they are built it’s very expensive to demolish or move them. We can’t leave at least three where they are. We have looked at putting a training facility on maybe a quarter section of land and putting a training track there and have on site 130 stalls for shipping-ins (horses that are shipping in)."

Marler did offer a tentative date for when shovels could be in the ground in Balzac, but did caution that the process is now largely in the hands of the government.

"Hopefully, if we get the approvals all done by May or June, we will be in the ground as soon as possible after that. We are looking at roughly a year to build, so, hopefully, we could have you racing late summer 2014. It’s really out of our hands at this point, we are at various stages of government and it is up to them at this point. As soon as we can, we will get into the ground and go from there."

Before entering into the question-and-answer part of the discussion, Marler, who also publicly thanked ASHA's executive director, Fred Gillis, said, "...it really is an exciting time for us. When we first turn that shovel, it will be a good day."

To read the transcript from Marler's address at ASHA's AGM, click here.

April 12, 2013 - 5:55 pmOn an eleven sixteenth track,

Rick Karper SAID...

On an eleven sixteenth track, I would think that the start would be on, or very near to the turn, unless the finish line was placed where the stretch is shortened substantially.


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