Locals Fight For The Life Of Marquis Downs
Horse racing supporters are desperate to prevent the closure of Saskatoon’s Marquis Downs track. This after in March, Prairieland Park confirmed that it would be calling a permanent halt on all races at the park and that the aim was to turn the space into soccer field for bringing a professional sports team to the city. If all went according to plan, announced Prairieland Park at the time, this team could look to play their first game by as early as 2023.
Horse racing enthusiasts have been trying to save the popular track ever since, and earlier this week addressed city councillors at a city planning and community services meeting in an attempt to preserve and come up with a rescue plan for Marquis Downs. The idea, said amateur jockey and horse racing advocate Nicole Hein, had been to bring the issues at hand before people who could actually make the decisions necessary to save the local industry.
50 Years Of History On The Line
Now in existence for the past 50 years, Prairieland Park is not only a central hub for the local horse racing community, but also a means to a life and income for between 40 and 50 per cent of the surrounding area’s Indigenous people.
One such person is Poundmaker Cree National Chief Duane Antoine, who has for the past 25 years been directly involved in horse racing in the region. Antoine described Prairieland Park as a place to meet for many people – and not just Indigenous people. He said its tragic to see a local industry that’s been around for so many years suddenly run the risk of completely ceasing to exist.
The Pros And The Cons
The issue with Prairieland Park – at least according to the city – is that it’s a venue not under its direct or municipal control. Instead, it’s a privately-run business. This means that while the park may be leased by the city, its day-to-day running and even its activities aren’t controlled by city officials.
According to the park, the running of a horse racing industry is simply just not viable any longer. Times have changed, and with the rise of online sports books, coupled with the restrictions of physical distancing, it has apparently become very near impossible to keep going.
But horse racing advocates like Nicole Hein are convinced that the Marquis Downs show is far from over and that survival lies with city council. One suggestion would be for a non-profit to take over all horse racing activities at the park. This would mean that the land would be leased to a third party interested in taking care of the venue and of the industry.
And since there’s so many people whose livelihoods are directly tied to the park and to Marquis Downs, suggestions like this one deserve more than just a second glance.