Photo: Fort Erie
For Gerry Catalano of Kenmore, whose family has been coming here since the 1920s, the possible closing of the Fort Erie Race Track has his grandparents turning over in their graves.
Anthony Grosse, a parimutuel-betting clerk at Fort Erie for the last 30 years, called the threatened closing a death in the community, robbing the town of both an economic engine and a local cornerstone for more than a century.
And as James A. Thibert, who heads the consortium that runs the Fort Erie track, said of the possible loss of jobs, “This is life and death for 500 people.”
Fort Erie held its 41st and final day of the racing season Tuesday – amid concrete fears that it could be the last racing day ever for the 116-year-old racetrack.
The racetrack that sits only about two miles from the Peace Bridge has been operating since 1897.
If Tuesday was the last day, the death knell was sounded last Friday, when the Ontario Horse Racing Transition Panel announced that only eight such racetracks will be retained – and subsidized – in Ontario. And Fort Erie is not one of the eight.
“It breaks my heart,” the 54-year-old Catalano said, sitting on a bench near the track’s paddock Tuesday afternoon. “There’s so much history here.”
Catalano owns a horse, Titanium Jane, that has raced at Fort Erie. And he remembers coming here in the 1990s, with his grandmother, then in her 90s.
“This is my second home, my Canadian home,” he added. “Some of my greatest memories have come here.”