Administration at Prairieland Park has disclosed they have endured ongoing losses at Marquis Downs over $500,000 annually during the last five years prior to the pandemic.
With no place to relocate, this will effectively end professional horse racing in Saskatchewan.
There seem to be a lot of mistruths circulating about whether or not Prairieland has the authority to discontinue the sport on their site.
You bet they can.
Nonprofits can’t afford losses
Part of the conversation that seems to be lost in all the discussion about Marquis Downs is how long Prairieland has already propped up the sport.
There is nothing in their mandate to say they exist to just host horse racing.
Their list of uses as a corporation under the Non-Profits Act of Saskatchewan states they are active in trade shows, agricultural events, school programs, the Saskatoon Exhibition and the operation of Sports on Tap.
It would seem irresponsible of the board of directors to continue operating any of these activities at a loss.
Getting to the zone of the matter
Zoning at Prairieland Park is AG which is defined as an Agricultural District.
Which might seem bizarre given this sits in a very urban setting now.
The purpose of the zoning is to allow for “certain large scale specialized land uses as well as certain rural oriented uses on the periphery of the City.”
The zoning bylaw is organized by district and outlines the permitted, prohibited, and discretionary uses for each.
Horse tracks are one of 25 permitted uses listed on this site.
The land could potentially be used for a zoo, golf course, cemetery, airport, place of worship, or hospital.
What I’m trying to illustrate is that the AG zoning is not limited to what we’d typically consider to be only be agricultural uses.
Therefore, the City of Saskatoon has left the board of directors that govern Prairieland Park to their own devices on how they see fit to generate income from the land under those guidelines.
Typically a land lease is a contractual agreement between a land owner (landlord) and tenant.
This land lease is not tailored with a big payday in mind to the landlord, however; it’s designed as a way to utilize existing municipal land to spur local economy.
The municipality leases the land to a nonprofit and in exchange that nonprofit brings forth opportunity for commerce.
This partnership model is the foundation of virtually all urban exhibition-type enterprises across Canada.
Saskatoon’s first exhibition fair was held in 1886 as a means to attract settlers and create economic viability.
Exhibition sites have evolved since their inception as well as the ancillary events they host.
It’s not reasonable to think that Prairieland would be operating the same attractions as that first fair.
Betting on the right horse?
In 2017 the horse racing industry celebrated their 250th anniversary of the first horse racing event organized on July 17, 1767, in Quebec City.
Marquis Downs’ current facilities were developed in 1969 but racing in many forms existed well before then.
It will soon be part of the memory bank with other tracks that have ceased in Regina (2003), Calgary (2008) and Edmonton (2018).*
Prairieland Park has publicly announced they will be repurposing the Marquis Downs portion of the site for soccer.
I don’t know much about the Canadian Premier Soccer League but just about every kid I know under the age of 10 has played on a soccer team at some point.
I hope this will be received with the same enthusiasm as the Rush lacrosse franchise and start a new history of sport for our city.
Posted by Kelly Macsymic
*Note: New horse racing tracks have emerged in both Edmonton and Calgary since the closure of their facilities on municipally-supported exhibition sites. Both are under the private management of Century Casinos, Inc.
I love this… thank you for writing it.
Thanks, Traycee. I remain a fan of your work too… 🙂
You say the reason for this blog/newsletter is to use it as a tool to refer your clients to specific articles. “The hope is that they can better understand nuances of the Saskatchewan commercial real estate business”.
So, what is the possible connection or concern with Prairieland that your clients might have? Possible sale of some of that land to private ventures once horse racing is gone? Regier in his March announcement about the cancellation of racing mentioned there would be a whole entertainment centre there, including a water park? Future business for ICR????
No land sale planned that I know of, Gloria. The blog is just my opinion based on what I know of the commercial real estate industry.
Do you usually write garbage? There were two tracks closed in Alberta – and two opened shortly after. The zoning bylaw does NOT permit a sports bar, banquet hall, indoor live entertainment, graduations, receptions, etc.
Nicole, I was informed of the new tracks in Alberta by another reader and have now amended my blog to incorporate that info.
Zoning compliance is in the City of Saskatoon’s realm to police, not me. That’s possibly a conversation of its own. I was only pointing out that Ag zoning is not all exclusive of traditional agricultural activities.
Love how you state :
It will soon be part of the memory bank with other tracks that have ceased in Regina (2003) Calgary (2008) and Edmonton (2018). What you forget to mention is
1. Prairieland was the cause of the Regina track closing.
2. Both Edmonton and Calgary have opened brand new tracks.
3. Winnipeg which had record handles last year is in the process of also building a new track.
And last but not least
4. Prairieland lobbied to have the government funding cut completely.
If run properly horses racing can be profitable, if Prairieland doesn’t want to put the effort in let someone else who knows what they are doing take it over and not turn their backs on the horse men and women of Saskatchewan
Thanks for your comments, Sara. I certainly didn’t omit any of those facts on purpose. I appreciate your clarification. I have amended my blog accordingly. If horse racing can be profitable in Saskatoon I hope that a private enterprise will fill the void for investment into that industry. From what I can discern, Edmonton’s Century Mile track is ran by a US corporation, for example.
Wonder if soccer will generate over 37million per year for the city of Saskatoon and each and every ag business surrounding the city, veternarians, shoers the list goes on?
Thanks for your comment, Rose. I think a lot of people overlook how much agriculture industry and its spinoffs still benefit our city. It’s easy to see ourselves as an urban centre but we still do have those prairie farming roots that are vital.
Terrible article, clearly political influence played a part in its garbage piece, the author and prairieland should be ashamed!
I’m sorry you feel this way. I have no affiliation with Prairieland, this is just my opinion as someone who works in commercial real estate.