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Harness racing group mounts campaign to ‘seize’ control of Fredericton Exhibition Grounds

A determined try by Horse Racing New Brunswick to discover a new venue might create a hitch in a plan by the Metropolis of Fredericton and NBEx to develop housing on the Exhibition Grounds and the mayor of Fredericton, for one, will not be blissful about it.

“A plan has been established for this website,” stated Kate Rogers.

“It is in our metropolis centre, and there is a lot we have to do with that land — specifically housing … 20 per cent of which can be inexpensive housing.”

The horse racing group is dealing with the tip — and non-renewal — of its lease this month at Exhibition Park Raceway in Saint John and is in search of one other metropolis the place horses can board, train and race. 

No racing since 2016

“If we won’t be right here, we have got to be in Fredericton or Moncton, and Fredericton already has a monitor,” Man Barbara, Horse Racing New Brunswick president, stated throughout a latest assembly posted on the group’s official fan web page on Fb.

Horses are nonetheless boarded in Fredericton, however common horse races haven’t been held within the metropolis since 2016, when the harness racing group had a authorized dispute with NBEx and its lease was not renewed.

Over the past a number of years, the board of NBEx, which has a long-term lease for the Exhibition Grounds from town, expiring in 2032, has labored collectively with town on a redevelopment plan.

Tons of of neighborhood members have been engaged in that course of, stated Rogers.

“We’re fairly far alongside in imagining what that’s going to appear like.”

Apart from housing, town and NBEx board envisioned a faculty, a recreation centre and the exhibition for the location’s future, however not a horse racing monitor.

Zoning bylaws are being put in place, stated Rogers, and the following step would have been to name for proposals from builders, along with the NBEx board.

Fredericton Mayor Kate Rogers says town wants the downtown land for housing. . (Maria Jose Burgos/CBC)

“As an alternative we now have a gaggle that has now made a provincial plea for folks to enroll to thwart that plan and I discover that unacceptable,” she stated.

“It is disheartening, it is startling and it baffles me that one thing like that may happen.”

Rogers was referring to plans mentioned overtly and posted about on the horse racing group Fb web page to stack the membership of the NBEx and its board with individuals who would approve of holding no less than a couple of race days on the Fredericton monitor subsequent season and within the coming years — which might clearly conflict with the prospect of shifting forward with onsite housing growth.

By means of a mixed effort with cattle farmers and draft horse house owners, a couple of “horse folks” have been elected to the NBEx board ultimately Could’s annual normal assembly, stated Charlie Miles, within the Fb video of the Dec. 10 assembly in Saint John. 

Phrases on board expiring

Miles is one other Horse Racing New Brunswick board member and a longtime horse proprietor, coach and driver from Fredericton.

Subsequent spring, six extra director phrases can be expiring, he stated.

He urged horse racing lovers from throughout the province to purchase $20 memberships in Agricultural Society 34 as a way to have voting rights for the following board election. The deadline to hitch is Dec. 30 at midday.

“If we wish to seize that monitor we are able to,” Barbara stated within the video.

Barbara, who lives in Saint John and used to run a resort, advised the assembly about his plans to lease O’Malleys Irish Pub, give Horse Racing New Brunswick free workplace area and supply simulcast wagering.

Barbara was not obtainable for an interview with CBC Information, however he despatched a direct message questioning the Metropolis of Fredericton’s intentions for the Exhibition Grounds.

Horses making what could also be their last laps of Exhibition Raceway in Saint John. (Aniekan Etuhube/CBC)

“Fredericton metropolis council at the side of builders want to remove this inexperienced area to generate more cash. HRNB will at all times stand with native horse males, farmers, cattlemen, and some other agricultural teams that want to save this website for its authentic supposed use — agricultural appreciation.”

NBEx, also referred to as Ag-34, is the one remaining agricultural society within the province, he stated, and the board handed a movement a number of years in the past to open membership provincewide.

The NBEx has a membership of about 160, stated govt director Mike Vokey, so if Horse Racing N.B. will get 50 of its supporters to attend the annual normal assembly, it may “simply sway the course of the group.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, about 80 new members had signed up up to now yr, stated Vokey. He known as {that a} vital enhance.

Nevertheless it’s not clear whether or not a pro-horse-racing board would, the truth is, have the ability to convey horse racing again to Fredericton.

Housing plan ‘secured’

“The coup that’s being supposed — their desired final result will not be as easy as they could think about,” stated Mayor Rogers.

The plan for housing is “very a lot secured,” she stated, by way of a secondary municipal plan that doesn’t embody harness racing as a permitted exercise on the property.

Nevertheless, town didn’t reply to a request for clarification about whether or not the property continues to be zoned to permit horse racing.

In its place, Rogers supplied to satisfy with Horse Racing N.B. to assist establish areas exterior town for a potential monitor, “if there’s a life past for harness racing.”

Horse Racing board members mentioned the struggling state of their sport in the course of the Dec. 10 assembly.

Hopes for P.E.I. curiosity

Their hopes for the longer term are pinned on discovering a “associate” in Nova Scotia or Prince Edward Island, the place harness racing nonetheless goes on, after being refused by the federal government of New Brunswick.

Barbara stated Pink Shores Racing in P.E.I. was open to speaking.

“They want New Brunswick horses to have a superb product,” he stated.

Ten race dates have been proposed for Connell Park in Woodstock subsequent summer season, the place one race day was held this yr. Ten is the minimal that may be required to have simulcast betting within the province. 

The race dates and the simulcasting each require the approval of the Atlantic Provinces Harness Racing Fee.

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