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Racing Staying At Northlands?

Published: September 1, 2016 6:24 pm ET

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Reports from Alberta indicate that Northlands Park could still host live horse racing past its original drop-dead date of the end of 2016.

Back in February, Northlands announced a proposal that would see the raceway 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.

"What we do know, in co-ordination with horse racing, is (that) 2016 will be our (Northlands’) last year in the horse racing business,” said Northlands' CEO Tim Reid.

In light of this need for a premier facility in the Edmonton region, Horse Racing Alberta (HRA) called for applicants interested in owning and operating a racetrack in the Edmonton area. That process, which commenced in April, has been narrowed down to four parties. HRA originally anticipated a mid-September date for completion of the evaluation and recommendations. However, no firm timeline has been established for this process.

At a public hearing on Wednesday, Edmonton city councillors proposed a motion that would allow Northlands Park to continue operation until that new racetrack can be completed. According to HRA's Chair Rick LeLacheur, that new facility wouldn't be ready for at least two more years.

“We heard today from so many communities today that worried about what the effect would be if the site were to go dormant,” said Coun. Tony Caterina. He put forth a multi-stipulation motion, one of which was for the City to pen a letter to Horse Racing Alberta stating they the support the track continuing operation for two more years.

Mayor Don Iveson stated he's open to the idea of horse racing continuing at Northlands.

"I'm quite open to the idea on an interim basis of operating the track for one or two more years while the permanent facility, that's maybe more appropriately located in the region, and more appropriately scaled [is built]," said Iveson post-session. "From what I understand, which is very limited about the horse racing business, this is probably a larger grandstand than what the business can sustain today. It's an aging grandstand, that presents some cost challenges in the medium to long term. And that the barns may also be more elaborate or larger than what the new facility would have.

"So the longer term future in a new purpose-built facility, that doesn't have the same aging infrastructure -- or potentially over-sized infrastructure -- if they can make that work and transfer those jobs and that economic activity in the region, that's not a bad thing. We can support that on an interim basis."

The motion will be discussed and voted on this coming Tuesday.


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