What do you do to relax when you run the newest race track in Canada? You come down to Whoop-Up Downs for a day of Sunday racing, that's what.
Paul Ryneveld, the general manager of Century Downs in Calgary feels the proximity of the new Calgary track to the Rocky Mountain Turf Club's operation in Lethbridge will actually be a boon to the Quarter horse and Thoroughbred racing community, once the Calgary flat races begin in the Fall of 2016.
"I actually think the close proximity will be helpful. I look forward to us working together rather than competing," he says.
The new Calgary track, on the northern edge of the city near the Balzac turnoff, is running a Standardbred program this year, and though no exact dates have been set, will move into flat racing next fall.
"We are still a work in progress, but we've been busy. I'm happy with the crowds we've been drawing, particularly after seven years of no racing at all in Calgary," Ryneveld stated.
The youthful-looking GM has a long history in the sport, starting in the concession area back in 1987. He then went into a horse racing industry program in 1994-1995.
"Prior to Century Downs I was a director at Hastings (in Vancouver) for five years." The Hastings folks were also affiliated with Fraser Downs, kind of working hand-in-hand so to speak, so he had a good awareness of the Standardbreds.
"Our Calgary track is 80 feet wide and is five and a half furlongs. We can run nine Standardbreds at a time and come next Fall, 12 Thoroughbreds or Quarter horses." Century Downs runs nine or 10 races a day when they are in action each Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
The large casino, restaurant and grandstand are all part of the same package, with access to the grandstand through the casino.
"Minors are allowed on the second level and of course outside along the rail, but not in the casino. We built the grandstand, which seats about 1,000 people, with the ability to expand in the future if necessary." The track presently has one barn for ship-in horses, and a test barn. Plans call for a second barn to be open this July and a third barn in the near future. That will give the track 500 stalls.
The Standardbred season has been running since the track's opening in April and will continue though mid-November.
"We run nine or 10 races a day right now and so far our Sunday's have been very strong.
"Because of the off track betting in Calgary many bettors choose to go there rather than the live track. Hence we draw a new crowd to the racetrack, and it is a much more intimate setting for them versus the racetracks of old."