Day At The Track

Tartan Downs is still on the block

07:51 PM 03 Feb 2018 NZDT
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Tartan Downs raceway
This aerial photo of the shuttered Tartan Downs raceway was taken in 2007. The 24-acre site was placed back on the market recently for an asking price of $235,000.

SYDNEY, N.S. — Two years after first putting the shuttered Tartan Downs harness racing raceway on the market, owner Jack MacNeil is still hoping a buyer can be found.

The 24-acre property was recently posted again on the multiple listing service for $235,000.

Harness racing ceased at Tartan Downs in 2007 as it was no longer financially viable and a buyer could not be secured.

The property at 755 Upper Prince St. is currently assessed at $88,500.

“There’s been some interest but there hasn’t been anything recently,” said MacNeil of prospective buyers.

He said he’d like to see a developer transform the land into lots for single detached and semi-detached homes and apartment buildings.

Approximately 25 horses are housed at the track in barns on the property.

The grandstand building described by municipal staff as “deplorable and dilapidated” was demolished in November 2012, following several intentionally set fires and an unsightly premises order from the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

The property is located in a multi-use zone for manufacturing, recreational and residential development including apartment buildings, townhouses or duplexes, according to its real estate listing with Marquis Realty.

Roy Milley of Marquis Realty said another option could see it refurbished as a racetrack once again.

“All the horse racing is over on the Northside but basically if someone wanted to start it up again as a race track that’s a possibility too,” he said.

Toronto-based Racino Royale Inc. had signed a purchase agreement in November 2006 to buy Tartan Downs from MacNeil but the deal fell through.

MacNeil said when he bought the racetrack in 1995 after it was placed in receivership, harness racing was still a “vibrant” sport in the community.

“There was something called simulcast racing out of Ontario that had just come into its own and we all thought that was going to be the saviour of live harness racing and it was for a good number of years.”

Now that he’s retired, MacNeil said it’s time to let go of the property that was once a big part of his life.

“It’s sitting there doing nothing. Perhaps someone out there could have plans for it,” he said.

“I’m hoping someone will see the sign and decide to (develop) the property. It’s a good property for that purpose obviously.

“Where else could you buy some (24 acres) of land there in the heart of the city … for that price?”

Twitter: @cbpost_chris

Tartan Downs history

• The Sydney track had its first public race on July 13, 1899.

• Racing halted in Sydney from 1938-44 due to a fading interest and a boom at the North Sydney track.

• Formerly known as the Cape Breton Sports Centre, Tartan Downs resurfaced in 1945.

• The name Tartan Downs Raceway was adopted in 1984, after a group headed by Halifax lawyer Victor Goldberg took over operations.

• Tartan Downs fell into receivership in the 1990s. It was bought by horse owner Jack MacNeil in 1995.

• The raceway shut down in 2007 as it was no longer financially viable.

• After several break-ins and intentionally set fires, the Tartan Downs grandstand was demolished in November 2012 due to a dangerous and unsightly premises order issued by the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

By Chris Shannon

Reprinted with permission of the Cape Breton Post

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