Dear Mr. Premier,
I am the Chief Operating Officer of the Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium and have held this position since July 1, 2010 when the consortium leased the operation of the track from Nordic Gaming for a three year period.
Initially I had some trepidation about applying for the position when it was advertised but two major factors swayed me into submitting my resume.
Firstly, I worked for the Ontario Jockey Club from 1976 through 1994 and while working my way up to the position of Executive Vice President was deeply involved in the operation of Fort Erie during the very popular August meeting followed by the introduction of the six month meeting for the horsepeople who could not compete at the Woodbine level.
I have seen the successes that Fort Erie Race Track has enjoyed and the injection of enthusiasm and pride it has created with the local community. Secondly, my passion for thoroughbred racing in Ontario and my affinity towards keeping the track open for years to come were compelling factors in pursuing this opportunity.
I have been involved in horse racing in North America, South America, United States and eight countries in Europe and in my experience have never sensed a more passionate group of employees and horsepeople dedicated towards the survival of the track and its continued operation for the long term future.
The immense popularity of the racing product captivates the immediate area for a six month period every year and the many residents who are employed by the track look forward to the opening of the season every year. For many of the employees it is the only job they have ever had and because of the unique aspects of the business it is the only job they can perform.
This makes their job skills “untransferrable” which means it would be virtually impossible for those who work as hot walkers and grooms on the backstretch to acquire jobs anywhere else. Other jobs have similar limitations as well.
We have made a lot of progress in transforming the racing experience at Fort Erie into a new and refreshing atmosphere while operating under a very limited marketing budget. The level of enthusiasm and interest has grown tremendously and we are looking at 2012 as an even more exciting season with 59 promotions scheduled over an 86 day meeting.
It would be a shame to see this momentum halted so abruptly with so much at stake for horsepeople, employees, contractors and racing fans.
The greatest compliment paid to Fort Erie by our American visitors is that Fort Erie is “the Saratoga of the North.”
This image and reputation must continue. Please keep Fort Erie Race Track operational for the sake of everyone concerned, especially the local community of employees, horsepeople, restaurant and hotel operators and local contractors.
Eric G. Cowan