According to a number of announcements, the officials at the Fort Erie Race Track have been discussing the sale of the 115-year-old track. Their deliberations are with two separate foreign investors.
Jim Thibert, who is the chief executive officer of the Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium, admits that he is negotiating with both of the interested parties.
Thibert has said, “We’re working with them to help them develop research material and concepts and ideas they could have for the property and, hopefully, they’ll put in an offer.”
Fort Erie Mayor Doug Martin said, “Thibert has been working diligently to attract investors. He’s been working towards some form of resolution and, hopefully, we’ll have some positive news coming out of it very soon.”
Neither Martin nor Thibert have identified the interested investors except for one fact – both parties are foreign investors.
Niagara Falls MPP Kim Craitor predicts that any investors in the track would require a passion for horse racing and also have a creative vision for property development.
“The track has to be converted somehow,” Craitor said. “You have to put some other attraction in it to make it a destination so people will come from all over.”
Fort Erie Race Track was conceived and built by the Fort Erie Jockey club and hosted its first racing season in 1897.
In June 2012 Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium announced that it was closing the gates of Fort Erie on December 31 due to removal of slot machines by the Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corporation. The consortium faces a $6 million budget gap in revenue losses as a result of the slots. These monies are critical to the track’s annual $29 million operating budget since the funds are allocated for purses.
It is sad but true that if a buyer does not step up, the track will close by end year.
Fort Erie Race Track is one of the oldest thoroughbred racetracks in North America. It is also the largest employer in Fort Erie. Besides the 2,000 people employed during its peak season, it has an estimated $185 million annual impact on the Fort Erie economy.
“We had to have an exit plan,” Thibert said. “The action [slot removal] puts us in that position.”
“We are finishing this season, no doubt about that,” Thibert said. “Unfortunately, barring some sort of miracle, we won’t be starting up next year.”
The closing of the track will be a major blow to Fort Erie.
One can only hope the track does not fall into the wrong foreign hands . . .
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