Speaking Notes from September 1, 2016
Mayor Iveson and Council,
Thank you for the opportunity to speak on the issue of Northlands Vision 2020 proposal.
My name is Dr Steven D Smith - I am a resident of Gariepy in West Edmonton, I am a practicing veterinarian with an equine only practice based almost exclusively at Northlands Park, and I am the president of the HBPA of Alberta which represents the thoroughbred owners, trainers and backstretch personnel that work in the Alberta thoroughbred racing industry.
I am here today to provide information on the economic impact of horse racing on the city of Edmonton- an aspect of the issue of Northlands redevelopment that has been entirely ignored thus far. I am also here to address a myth that has been perpetuated since Northlands initially made their proposal public this spring.
The myth I wish to address is this: that horse racing in Alberta is a dead or dying industry. Horse racing continues to be an important contributor to the Alberta economy:
- 7000 Albertans receive income from racing in Alberta.
- The horse racing industry has a 400 million dollar annual impact on the Alberta economy
- This spring HRA and the Provincial government signed a 10 year MOU dictating the terms of revenue sharing between the provincial government and the horse racing industry in Alberta for the next 10 years- thereby securing the future of racing for the next decade
- A new facility was recently completed in Calgary at a cost of approximately 50 million
- When Northlands announced that they were exiting the Horse Racing business there were several parties interested in developing a new track in the capital region.
Furthermore, with respect to Northlands itself:
- The weekend before last was the 2016 edition of the Canadian Derby- it was a very successful day, with a sold out crowd of 15 000 wagering 1.2 million dollars.
- Canadian Derby is broadcast and wagered on throughout Canada and North America, with horses and their connections from all over North America coming to Edmonton to participate on Derby day.
- Over the last decade the Canadian Derby has become an important part of the Edmonton sporting calendar and social scene
None of this is consistent with the image of a dead or dying industry. It is a convenient lie to say that horse racing in Alberta is dying to justify redeveloping Northlands property- but it’s not accurate and it’s not fair to the 7000 Albertans who work in the racing industry in Alberta.
With respect to the economic impact of horse racing on the city of Edmonton:
During the Thoroughbred racing season at Northlands (May through the end of October) there are between 700 and 1000 horses stabled 7 days a week onsite at Northlands.
Because of those 1000 horses 600 people have full time employment. 50+ trainers operate their stables out of Northlands. These trainers are all small business people. There are ancillary industries that provide services, veterinarians such as myself, farriers, feed and bedding suppliers and tack stores.
These small business people and their employeeslive in Edmonton, pay taxes in Edmonton and support local business in Edmonton. Further to that the owners of these 1000 horses from all over Alberta and Western Canada visit Edmonton every weekend- they stay in Edmonton hotels and eat in Edmonton restaurants.
The horse racing industry has a significant impact on the economy of the city of Edmonton that has thus far NOT been considered in the conversation surrounding Northlands redevelopment of their property.
I believe that there will be a new racing facility in the Edmonton region in the next 2-3 years. However in the interim it makes economic sense for Northlands to continue to offer horse racing as it is one of the only revenue positive activities available to them. It is critically important to the racing industry to have a place to race in Edmonton- and it makes economic sense for the city of Edmonton as well.
Thank you for your time.