An obituary for the picturesque 116-year-old Fort Erie Race Track after the conclusion of its 41-day racing season may be premature.
Fears are high that the racetrack, located just 2 miles from the Peace Bridge, could stay dark, especially after the Ontario Horse Racing Transition Panel announced that the track was not among eight that would continue to be subsidized by the government.
But John Snobelen, a member of the panel, told the Niagara Falls (Ont.) Review on Wednesday that the border town racetrack would be an ideal location to host a reduced, rather than full schedule. That could mean a high-profile, thoroughbred festival for a week or two – which he compared to the three U.S. Triple Crown races.
Snobelen sounded encouraging. “We see it as a part of the future of racing in Ontario,” he said. “… We’d like to see racing at this venue.”
He said many horse-racing tracks around the world operate this way, and recalled how the Fort Erie Race Track functioned as an August meet until about two decades ago.
Horses still could be shipped in on race days for meets rather than being stabled at the track.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne told the Canadian newspaper that she believes that the track has not seen its last days.
“I don’t know exactly what that will look like,” she said, “but certainly the panel has said they saw a future for Fort Erie, but it will be a different kind of future.”
The track, with nearly 200 seasonal employees, is the largest employer in Fort Erie, and is responsible for generating an annual economic impact of nearly $27 million.