by Garnet Barnsdale
Earlier this week, Flamboro Downs announced upgrades to their facilities that restricted entrance to the main building to patrons 19 years of age and older. To use the old “it went over like a lead balloon” cliché may not do justice to the negative buzz the announcement provoked on social media.
On Facebook alone, there were 112 replies as of mid-day Thursday with nary a positive comment to be found.
On Twitter, there were many that were tweeting their thoughts on the announcement which can be read in full here:
As you may know, we have made a significant investment in our gaming and entertainment facilities, and we are eager to share them with our guests. These enhancements include the addition of new gaming and entertainment amenities and the addition of approximately 100 new jobs.
In order to accommodate these new enhancements, Flamboro Downs will become a 19+ entertainment destination on Tuesday, September 3. All ages are still absolutely welcome to enjoy live racing on the tarmac. Access to washroom facilities will be available.
Nathan Bain, who has done some great media work at Dresden and Leamington Raceways and is a Youth Member of the Canadian Chapter of the United States Harness Writers was one of the first to chime in with his displeasure
“Very disappointed to the see that anyone under the age of 19 is not allowed to enter the grandstand or clubhouse at Flamboro Downs as of September 3rd.,” Bain tweeted. “We should be engaging youth in this sport not turning them away and that’s coming from a youth!”
Bain went on to mention that he can’t believe that he was allowed to call a race at Flamboro Downs when he was 15 and, now at the age of 17, “I’m not even allowed to enter the grandstand and I have always liked that track.”
Trotting Turk agreed with Bain by tweeting: “Absolutely sickening. You cannot grow the sport without youth! I can tell you this, they just lost a long-time customer. I will never support a situation like this. Bye bye Flamboro.”
A few drivers chimed in on social media as well starting with Hambletonian-winning teamster Bob McClure who retweeted Bain’s thoughts with this tweet of his own: “This is very upsetting and disappointing… I love having my family there for big races and milestone events. I don’t understand the thought process of restricting people from entering to increase attendance.”
2017 World Driving champion James MacDonald added some thoughts in a Facebook post by owner Adriano Sorella who also indicated his disappointment at the announcement. MacDonald posted: “how are kids’ families and new customers suppose to fall in love with horse racing when they can’t even watch it in person without freezing to death! I remember packs of kids at the tracks together when I was a kid most if not all still in some way involved with horse racing! It’s the single most ridiculous thing I’ve ever read in my life; Flamboro downs should be ashamed of themselves!”
It looks like with the new upgrades and construction already completed, the horse is already out of the barn at Flamboro with the gate closed behind him, but someone did reply on the Flamboro Facebook account that indicated that they are at least noticing the negative feedback.
“Many have shared frustrations and concerns about the recent announcement,” the reply began. “Please know that all constructive feedback is being shared with management.”
Thursday evening, Ontario Racing issued a statement on the matter that said: “Horse racing fans of all ages have enjoyed the sport and its thrilling live venue experience in the province for decades. We encourage racing organizations to continue to embrace and nurture horse racing fans by broadening the sport’s appeal and focusing on growing the fan base. In support of that goal, only racetracks that offer live racing qualify for funding under the Long-Term Funding Agreement.”