Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Downs running on empty

Government promises have fallen by wayside, track in trouble

  • Print

With the provincial election set for Oct. 4, this is probably a good time to remind Jim Rondeau, the NDP MLA for Assiniboia, of an announcement on May 6, 2009, at a press conference announcing the opening of the thoroughbred racing season at Assiniboia Downs.

Rondeau used the opportunity to say it could be only a matter of days before a deal between the NDP and the Downs, that would secure the long-term viability of the race track, would be announced. "I was hoping a week ago we could make the announcement" he said from the podium. "I understand the announcement is imminent."

To this day, the Downs still has not secured any long-term viability. Now, with the possibility that there could be a new provincial government, Harvey Warner, president of the Manitoba Jockey Club, might be having to start negotiations back at square one.

In 2008 the NDP did an economic impact study on Assiniboia Downs, showing that major upgrades were needed for the 53-year-old track. The government also said it would expand or upgrade the 140-machine VLT lounge. Neither has been implemented, even though the study also found that the race track has an economic impact in the province of $50 million annually.

The sad truth is that horse racing, which has been around in Winnipeg since Robert Speers leased St. Boniface's River Park in 1922, will not survive if the Downs cannot compete on an even footing with casinos.

"If you look at a gaming magazine that shows you the gaming pie in any province or state," said Warner, "it'll show you how much comes from VLTs, table games, lotteries, etc., and horse racing is, if you have ever seen a sliver in a pie, that is it."

The last estimate put forward for upgrading the grandstand was around $6 million, but that's the tip of the iceberg.

"There's a number of things," said Warner. "As you drive in you'll see we need improved lighting. The race track lighting also needs improvement. There are issues around the barns, and there are also sewer and water issues that need upgrading."

All stakes purses, with the exception of the $75,000 Manitoba Lotteries Derby, have dropped. Even that, however, was $100,000 only a few years ago. What that means is not as many of the higher quality horses are coming here. "We found that when we had the $50,000 stakes right across the board, the guys from Canterbury (Minneapolis) came in for the $20,000 allowance prep races for the stake. So people travel for those kind of things, but when you are looking at the core of your business being the blue-collar horses, those are the ones you have to kind of look after, and the core of our purses is not bad."

With the House currently down, Warner says that nothing is happening at this time. "We were making some efforts to get a few of the short-term things done, prior to them shutting down. But the only one that did come through was a tweak in the funding arrangement. That was something that got us by this year.

"We'd be better off for the government to say, 'we have some concerns about the industry, so we are going to put this plan together and give you 10-15 years to run with it.' If it doesn't work then maybe it's time to put out the lights."

allan.besson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 12, 2011 C5

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Rumor's 30th Anniversary with Mike Wilmot, Darryl Lenox, Dave Hemstad & Derek Edwards

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A goose flys defensively to protect their young Wednesday near Kenaston Blvd and Waverley -See Bryksa 30 Day goose challenge- Day 16 - May 23, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A golfer looks for his ball in a water trap at John Blumberg Golf Course Friday afternoon as geese and goslings run for safety- See Joe Bryksa’s 30 day goose challenge- Day 24– June 15, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Who has been the Jets best defenceman so far this season?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google