Red River Ex proposes take over of Assiniboia Downs
Published Wednesday, January 30, 2013 1:53PM CST
Last Updated Wednesday, January 30, 2013 7:27PM CST
The Red River Exhibition Association wants to take control of Assiniboia Downs in an effort to save the province’s horse racing industry.
Horse racing receives an annual $9.5 million a year from the province, but the province says the industry will soon see dramatic funding cuts.
RREA CEO Garth Rogerson has pitched a plan to the government that would inject capital back into the Downs grounds. He says it is already drawing support from Finance Minister Stan Struthers.
"We believe that it could convert into a multi-purpose entertainment destination centre that requires a significant amount of renovation to create a dynamic atmosphere," said Rogerson.
The more-than-$5 million concept includes upgrades to the barns, stables and club house, as well as making the space a go-to area for concerts, corporate events and weddings.
But there is one hiccup in the plan--no one has shared any of this information with Assiniboia Downs.
Assiniboia Downs CEO Darren Dunn said word of this proposal plus the possibility of a cut to their funding has caught them off guard.
Dunn said while they couldn't operate without the government's help, the business is in good shape.
"We've balanced budgets for 20 years,” said Dunn. “We've been incredibly fiscally responsible while contributing to the province in the hundreds of millions of dollars over that period of time."
But Ex officials says they've approached the Downs in the past, and there has been no interest to partner up.
Rogerson said the idea is not to poach the facility, but rather to try to save the industry.
He says horse racing would still be a major part of the facility, and the plan would also see a return of harness racing.
The Manitoba Jockey Club would still need to approve the plan.
-- with files from CTV's Jeff Keele