BACKSTRETCH AND TRACK CHANGES ENVISIONED
While construction continues at a rapid
pace on the front side of Fraser Downs Racetrack and Casino,
not all is being forgotten on the back, or horsemen’s, side
of the facility.
The new casino is set to open on Nov. 3
with other upgrades – e.g. a new simulcast wagering area and
parking lot – and construction of the new atrium that will
join the two present buildings, the Clubhouse and
Grandstand, following quickly. Completion of all
construction is planned by April 2005.
All that “new” is being watched from
the backside but Chuck Keeling, general manager of the
Downs, has not forgotten those on the racing side.
Year One of a five-year plan is under
A few things already started or
announced include the purchase of a new starting car and
gate, year-round security in the barn area; improved parking
lot, with lighting, in the horsemen’s lot and annual review
of track grades.
There will be 92 days of racing at
Fraser Downs with plans to increase Sandown Park dates on
the Island to 16 in 2005 (premised
on receiving approval to redevelop the facility).
Weekly schooling and qualifying of horses is now planned for
Some of the purses, in this case, for
lower classes have been increased and an Open pacing series
of three races with purses totaling $100,000 has been
The B.C. Harness Hall of Fame will be
opened in the new atrium area.
In Year Two, there will be about 100
days of racing at the Downs and 20 at Sandown. Races in the
$4,000 claiming class will be confined to winners over
$2,000 and winners under $2,000. Purses could be increased
by 75 per cent, or $7,000 per race subject to
slot/pari-mutuel revenue growth.
A lounge/observation area will be set
aside in the new area of the grandstand for owners with
horses in to go in an upcoming race. Other improvements will
be incorporated for new and existing owners and a new
owners’ seminar and other programs will be developed.
In Year Three, Barn A on the backside
will be gutted and rebuilt. Races dates will be increased to
about 115 days (Sept. 2 to May 31) with a 24-plus day meet
A review of bottom classes of races
will be made; purse structure will be studied as will the
Year Four (2007-08) and Five will have
a continued review of all issues with changes done when
Long-range plans include construction
of a new five-eighth’s mile track and also doing away with
all on-track stabling to be replaced by construction of a
new ship-in barn and administration building with its
A note of
caution should be attached to all changes, as they are
contingent upon a revitalized health to the business. For
instance, if handle on the live races falls at rates of 10
per cent or more per season (as was the case last season),
adding race dates could be the worst thing to do. Some
business rationale would be applied to any decision.
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