The new plan for Northlands would turn Rexall into Northlands Ice Coliseum with seven sheets of ice, volleyball, lacrosse, curling and indoor soccer. Hall D of the Expo Center will be turned into a 5000 seat venue for lacrosse, rodeo and mid-size concerts. The Racetrack and Casino will be turned into a giant outdoor concert venue. While this new plan does account for entertainment, it leaves out the agriculture and racing. For the sake of this article we will focus on the outdoor concert venue.
Northlands is a nonprofit organization, so they do not exactly have the cash on hand to fund these changes, on top of this they are still paying off a $40 million dollar mortgage on the expo center. The city and the province will be needing to fund them and with the loss of horse racing and the potential loss of Farm Fair and Canadian Finals Rodeo, Northlands will lose a large part of their funding and grants. You may wonder why they would lose the rodeo when they are keeping the rodeo stadium, since there will be no place to keep the livestock anymore the costs of transporting them in each day will be very high, costing Northlands the rodeo.
The revamping of Northlands has put the horse racing industry of thoroughbreds and standardbreds within Alberta in a perilous position. The horse racing industry contributes $290 million to the economy. The loss of this industry will not only affect the 7 000 people employed by it, but also farmers who produce oats, hay, straw and other feed. There are 400 farms and ranches directly involved in racing, Alberta is home to one third of all horses in Canada. When Century Downs was opened in Calgary, the new track saw the standardbred meet being the full 90 days that it had not seen since Stampede Park ended horse racing in 2007. This new track was forecasted to create an extra $100 million extra wager revenue over the next 3 years (2015-2017). Previously, Tim Reid the President of Northlands Park, had stated that Northlands Park was committed to horse racing until 2017, something that Northlands does not seem to want to follow through on.
Whether you agree with the plan for Northlands or not, I want you spend a minute thinking about the job loss both for the people and their horses. I can speak from experience when I say that the people and the horses love what they do. I will admit that this is a personal topic for me. I have been involved in horse racing my whole life. It is a way of life for people. Think of the even more potential job losses in an already struggling economy. Losing horse racing at Northlands Park will be losing something unique within Edmonton. Festivals can be held anywhere, but Northlands is the only place in Edmonton that offers live horse racing. I can say that I have learned so much from those horses and their hearts, they truly are athletes. Imagine telling a hockey player or a soccer player they cannot play their game anymore. A racehorse is a horse that can take a thousand people for a ride at once.