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 way.  

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 year round. 

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 announced. 

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 at Sandown.

A review of bottom classes of races will be made; purse structure will be studied as will the Stakes program. 

Year Four (2007-08) and Five will have a continued review of all issues with changes done when needed. 

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 related services. 

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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