Almost a year after it looked like Edmonton would lose horse racing all together, the final piece of the puzzle to keep it here for good has been finalized. Northlands and Horse Racing Alberta have signed a contract that extends through to the end of June, 2018.
“One more Canadian Derby, and we know that for sure,” confirmed Northlands CEO Tim Reid.
Horse Racing Alberta CEO Shirley McLellan said they’ll be at Northlands all of 2017, and half of 2018 before moving to the new track at Century Mile. “This is certainly much better for the horsemen,” she said in an interview. “They have stability. I think it’s a win for Northlands, it gives them time to develop their plans. And for us it’s a great move to transition to the excitement of the new track in the Edmonton Market.”
The contract was finalized over the last couple of days, after a decision by city council at the end of August gave both sides a chance to take some time, and work out a plan to keep racing active in Edmonton until the new casino and track is built in south Edmonton.
“This transition needed more time than we were allowing them,” said Reid. “When council made the decision to initiate an area restructure plan for the south side of our campus and the neighboring areas, it in some ways afforded us the time to work with HRA to transition to the new track.”
It also keeps the racing industry going, while providing needed revenue for Northlands.
The 2017 racing season will see a 100 day schedule. In 2018, the plan is to have them wrap up at Northlands June 30, then move to Century Mile the next day. That’s all dependent on the construction schedule, so some flexibility will be built into the contract Reid said.
He doesn’t expect you’ll notice any difference in the product or the footprint for racing at Northlands. “Over the course of the last year we programmed the infield around K-Days and we did the same thing around the derby. We actually tested using it from an entertainment standpoint and it worked really well. You may see us do some of that in 2017. But the intent would be that we’d complement the race track and not take away from it.”
The new area structure plan will be back in front of city council before the end of this year, Reid said.