Numerous horse racing supporters from Saskatoon have expressed their discontent over Prairieland Park’s decision to close down the live harness track Marquis Downs. The park is looking into the possibility of replacing the horse racing venue with a professional soccer stadium. That is why this Monday a delegation of supporters of the industry will be discussing the subject with the city council.
Prairieland Park announced its plans for the property back in March this year, and it has led to a major backlash among horsepeople and fans of the sport. The park has held talks with the Canadian Premier Soccer League for the construction of a stadium and accommodate a professional team to the city. The first match on the new venue could be played as early as 2023.
This Monday during the planning, development, and community services meeting beginning at 9:30 a.m. CST advocates of the live harness sports will be discussing the matter with the city council. One of them being Nicole Hein, who stated that the meeting between the two sides will be one more vital step to raise awareness for the issue.
Prairieland Park has hosted horsing events for the past 50 years and the race track is considered to be of historical significance for many of the horsepeople. Additionally, the shutting down of the track has caused problems to the Indigenous communities, as 40% to 50% percent of the individuals who are involved in the local horse racing industry are Indigenous.
Poundmaker Cree Nation Chief Duane Antoine has also spoken up on the controversial topic. Mr. Antoine, who has 25 years of experience in the industry, stated that it was sad to see a years-long industry being closed down. He continued by explaining that the closing down is problematic not only for the Indigenous people but for the whole local community as a whole.
Ms. Hein believes that a non-profit organization should take over the live harness racing at the park. She urged the city council to further review the matter and decrease the lease for the land of the racing track and allow a third-party corporation to take the rein. She also explained that building a new track is not an answer as it would cause even further setbacks for the industry.
Trevor Williams president of the Manitoba Standardbred Racing Industry Inc. has previously come up with a suggestion to accommodate the horsepeople. His idea is to renew races at the track for a little while since the construction of the stadium and its preparations are expected to begin in 2022. Additionally, the proposal also includes the notion to extend the length of the current season with five more weeks of racing.
As already mentioned, many horsepeople are directly affected by the proposed closing down of the live harness track. Trainer Anita Gardipy has also shared her unhappiness with the park’s decision. She described the situation as a “real gut punch” for all workers, but she admitted that she was not surprised with the project since the park’s indifference to the sport was always pointing to that.
Source: “Supporters of Saskatoon’s Marquis Downs asking city councilors to save horse racing track”, CBC, May 10, 2021