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Northlands: ‘Anything Is Possible’

Published: August 17, 2016 4:12 pm ET

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On February 17, officials with Edmonton’s Alberta’s Northlands Park announced that 2016 would be the track’s last year in the live horse racing business. Fast forward almost six months to the day, and word from the track is that ‘anything is possible.’

It was back in February when Northlands Park held a press conference and unveiled its vision/proposal that intended for the raceway to be redeveloped into a multi-purpose public park that would have the ability to host tens of thousands of people for large-scale festivals and outdoor concerts.

During the February press conference, Northlands President & CEO Tim Reid was also clear to state the following:

“None of these pictures (that were displayed in the presentation) are final. They’re just images and they’re thoughts and they’re conversation starters.

“We have been clear with the horse racing industry that we think we need to progress beyond horse racing to activate that 52-acre site. That being said, if the discussions between the province and the HRA (Horse Racing Alberta) came back and the business model changed dramatically, we’d be very thankful we had pictures and not final decisions.

“And, so, we’re willing to work with the industry, and we have all along, and we are very interested in what the outcome of that conversation will look like, but our sense on it right now is (that) we need to build on a future sustainability of Northlands, and not hedge our decision on what happens between the province and HRA.”

Reid re-addressed the issue yesterday morning (Tuesday, August 16) during the track’s press conference for Canadian Derby, which has annually been one of the premier Thoroughbred races in western Canada. An article by the Edmonton Journal has cited Reid as saying that Northlands’ decision to get out of the business of live racing is not definite at this point.

“Anything is possible,” Reid was quoted as saying. “It will all be based on our meetings this fall with the City when our report goes to Council and we begin our next round of conversations,” adding, “there’s always a chance.”

Reid went on to say, “We have made it clear that our plans are not to continue racing at this site. But we’ve also got to listen to our stakeholders — the owners, trainers and jockeys — and be considerate of their industry.”

Monday, August 8, 2016, at 3:00 p.m. marked the close for the Request For Proposal (RFP) to build, own and operate an 'A' Horse Racing Facility in or near Edmonton. At the time of closing, Horse Racing Alberta (HRA) had received four (4) RFP documents. The RFP documents have been provided to the selection committee for their review and recommendation to the board of HRA. Horse Racing Alberta anticipates mid-September for completion of the evaluation and recommendations, however, no firm timeline has been established for this process.

The Edmonton Journal article has quoted HRA Chair Shirley McClellan as saying that Standardbreds, Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses will all be racing in the province in 2017, regardless of what shakes out at Northlands. She cited Century Downs (located in Calgary), the Rocky Mountain Turf Club (Lethbridge) and Evergreen Park (Grande Prairie) specifically in her quote.

“What we don’t know about is Northlands; I don’t think anyone knows for sure what Northlands is going to do until they go to the City,” McClellan was quoted as saying. “It’s all guessing right now. Northlands is the unknown, which is disconcerting to the racing industry because they don’t know how this is all going to come down.”

(With files from the Edmonton Sun)


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