Desert Park Exhibition Society managing to break even after successful race dates in 2013

By on April 9, 2014
Last year's return of horse racing to Desert Park was a popular success as shown in this file photo. This year the second race has been moved forward, which will make it easier to attract horses and jockeys. (Richard McGuire file photo)

Last year’s return of horse racing to Desert Park was a popular success as shown in this file photo. This year the second race has been moved forward, which will make it easier to attract horses and jockeys. (Richard McGuire file photo)

Despite two hugely successful race dates that attracted more than 4,000 fans to the Desert Park racetrack last summer, the Desert Park Exhibition Society is managing to only break even.

On a more positive note, the facility is constantly being upgraded, a huge number of Alberta horse owners and trainers are using the facility this winter and spring and two more race dates have been booked this summer, said Carol Youngberg, the president of the exhibition society during a presentation to Town of Osoyoos council on Monday.

The society’s financial statements show it is currently $6,000 in the black, but that’s not accurate as several receivables have been collected since the financial report was completed several weeks ago, said Youngberg.

More than 100 horses and almost 60 people from Alberta have spent the past several weeks using the training facilities at Desert Park and this has a significant economic impact on the town at this time of year, said Youngberg.

“These people are staying in local hotels and they eat out every day,” she said. “At the last count, there were 58 people up there. We hope we can continue to improve the facility further so they will keep coming back.”

The society plans on continuing upgrades at the facility this coming year, including upgrading the showers and bathrooms for the trainers and owners who flock to Osoyoos in late winter and early spring, said Youngberg.

An unexpected $12,000 bill to repair the tractor recently purchased by the society “came completely out of the blue” and hurt the bottom line significantly, said Youngberg.

The biggest area of concern is how much it’s going to cost the society to upgrade the grandstand, Youngberg told council.

They have hired an engineering firm from Penticton to prepare a report on the state of the grandstand and detail exactly how much it’s going to cost to bring it up to provincial building code standards, she said.

“The contract … will be here this week,” she said.

It’s important to get the grandstand fixed not only for race dates, but because the society would then be able to raise money by leasing out the facility for other events, she said.

Two organizations have contacted the society about using the facility for major events, but could not proceed because they both required seating for between 1,500 and 3,000 people, she said.

The society is thrilled with the amount of community support for the race dates held in 2013, she said.

“We planned for 800 and we got over 2,000 for both race dates,” she said.

She is confident the race dates in 2014 – set for June 14 and August 16 – will attract even larger crowds now that owners and trainers across the province and from Alberta are aware the races have returned to Osoyoos after a 15-year absence, she said.

The society is also in the process of “creating a brand” for the facility and hope to announce its new marketing plan in the near future, she said.

To help raise funds, the Desert Park Exhibition Society is hosting three upcoming fundraising events, including one on May 3 at The Sage Pub, May 24 at The Ridge Pub and its largest fundraiser set for June 7 at the Watermark Beach Resort.

Mayor Stu Wells thanked Youngberg and the many volunteers with the exhibition society for doing a remarkable job in upgrading the facility and bringing horse racing back to this community.

“We as council think you are doing a great job,” he said.

The financial impact of the race dates and having so many horse owners and trainers come to town is enormous, he said.

Youngberg said the community support for the society is incredible and the number of local businesses that have made financial contributions and in-kind assistance is overwhelming.

While finances remain tight, she is confident the two race dates in 2014 will draw huge crowds and hopefully make a nice profit for the society, which will allow for upgrades to continue, she said.

KEITH LACEY

Osoyoos Times

 

 

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