Prairieland Park axes thoroughbred racing, pursuing professional soccer team

Prairieland Park announced it is permanently cancelling thoroughbred racing at Marquis Downs as it pursues a Canadian Premier League franchise. File / Global News

Fifty years of thoroughbred horse racing in Saskatoon has come to an end.

Calling it a difficult decision, Prairieland Park announced Friday it is permanently cancelling thoroughbred racing at Marquis Downs.

The 2021 season was cancelled last month by Prairieland Park for the second year in a row due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read more: Sask. horse racing community ‘extremely disappointed’ after season cancelled again

The board of Prairieland said it “recognizes the financial pressures felt by industry members in the wake of the announcement to end thoroughbred horse racing at Marquis Downs.”

It said a one-time payment of $1,000 will be made to horse owners for each horse that ran in at least three races during the 2019 season.

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Professional soccer

Prairieland Park is turning to professional soccer.

The board announced it is in discussions with the Canadian Premier League and Living Sky Sports and Entertainment to bring professional soccer to Saskatoon.

“The opportunity presented by CPL and Living Sky Sports will help lead Prairieland into the future, and the board felt it was the time to transition space at Marquis Downs to accommodate this new venture,” Prairieland Park said in a release.

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CPL said exclusive rights to an expansion club have been awarded to LSSE contingent on the company delivering a soccer-specific stadium.

LSSE said Prairieland Park is the preferred site for the stadium.

“By acquiring the exclusive rights to a CPL expansion club, we can immediately begin work on our first task, which is the development and financing of a soccer-ready stadium, suitable to CPL league-wide standards,” said LSSE principal Alan Simpson.

“We think Prairieland Park in Saskatoon is an ideal location for a stadium — it already possesses many key attributes that would contribute to the long-term viability of a pro soccer team in Saskatchewan.”

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Mark Regier, CEO of Prairieland Park, said they have entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with LSSE to explore the feasibility of a soccer-specific stadium at the facility.

“The signing of the MOU, therefore, marks the end of thoroughbred racing at Marquis Downs in Saskatoon,” Regier said in a statement.

“We feel it is our responsibility to embrace the possibility of new opportunities and address the rapid pace of change in our core businesses and services. We look forward to working with LSSE to understand whether a stadium at Prairieland is in our best long-term interests.”

Prairieland Park said more details will be released as plans are developed.

The CPL currently consists of eight teams across the country and in 2021, has a $1.2 million salary cap for players and coaching/technical staff.

Agriculture future at Prairieland

Prairieland Park said it is proud of its agricultural roots and will continue to support the industry.

Annual events such as the Western Canadian Crop Production Show, the Saskatchewan Equine Expo and the Beef Expo will continue.

“Those Prairieland produced events, along with the community events hosted in the dedicated Ag Center on the property, will remain a cornerstone of our ongoing commitment to agriculture in the province,” Prairieland said in a release.

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It added negotiations continue with First Nations groups to establish a First Nations Equine School at the park.

Click to play video: 'Horse racing season cancelled again in Saskatchewan'
Horse racing season cancelled again in Saskatchewan

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