Northville Downs appears to be without a home. Perhaps it’s just for the time being, perhaps its permanent.
Either way, it leaves the future of live horse racing betting in Michigan in doubt.
On Tuesday, the Plymouth Township Planning Commission rescinded plans for Northville Downs to build a new track on its territory. This was due to Northville Downs failing to meet four of the six conditions to which the original agreement was established.
Northville Downs is holding its final live racing event on Saturday, Feb. 3 after 80 years of operation at its current location in Northville. That location is set to be demolished for a redevelopment project.
With this latest development, live pari-mutuel racing will cease to exist in Michigan after Feb. 3, with no return date in site.
Northville Downs initial Plymouth Township plans
Northville Downs purchased 128 aces of land in Plymouth Township near the corner of Five Mile and Ridge roads.
The intent of the purchase was to build a new harness racing facility, but that was pending approval of the township board.
The initial proposal for the new track and facility was early in 2023.
Initial plans also called for an adjacent 54,000-square-foot gaming facility to be built. However, laws prohibit establishing a new casino unless the location has a population of at least 800,000 people. Plymouth Township has a population of just under 28,000.
Project contingent on six key issues
When first announced, the Northville Downs relocation project was met with a lot of pushback from Plymouth Township community members.
The Planned Unit Development (PUD) plan for the new track project was still given approval on June 1 by the Plymouth Township Planning Commission contingent on six key actions:
- That the outstanding items from the planners’ report are addressed.
- That the outstanding items from the engineers’ report are addressed.
- That there is a revised PUD contract that includes a provision for a community benefits agreement to be submitted to the Township Attorney and must be determined by the Board and Attorney to be acceptable. All items of the PUD contract must be found satisfactory to the Township Attorney and Board of Trustees.
- That the final landscape plan is reviewed administratively.
- That relocating the Northville Downs sign from Northville to Plymouth Township is approved.
- That the PUD contract be revised to include verbiage that there is no expansion of gaming and that the Township Attorney determines the exact wording.
Northville Downs fails to meet four contingencies
During the Jan. 29 meeting, the Planning Commission unanimously voted to rescind the Northville Downs project. It was deemed Northville Downs failed to comply with four of the six contingencies for recommendation.
Specifically, the first four of the six contingencies were not met, including Northville Downs declining to contribute to a Community Benefits Agreement as part of the project.
According to Tom Barrett, president of the Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association, the contribution would be $50,000 per year for 10 years. Northville Downs alleges the requested payment was $500,000 per year for 10 years.
On top of rescinding the plans, the commission also denied a request by Northville Downs for a one-year extension on the development plan to meet more of these contingencies.
Further, it was noted that the extension is typically given if the applicant is acting in good faith. The commission believed that Northville Downs was not acting in good faith.
Thus, the plans for a new track in Plymouth Township are currently dead.
PlayMichigan‘s attempts to reach Northville Downs for comment on the matter were not immediately returned.
Current Northville Downs closing after 80 years
Northville Downs first started at its current location of 301 S. Center St. in Northville back in 1944.
Back in 2018, Northville Downs announced that Hunter Pasteur Homes was going to purchase its current location for $10.25 million.
A $250 million redevelopment project on the Northville Downs site is going to be beginning soon, following the demolition of the current track and facility.
This Saturday marks the final live racing date at Northville Downs’ current location.
Simulcast wagering will end at Northville Downs beginning Monday, Feb. 5.
Patrons of the track will have until Saturday, Feb. 10 to cash in any remaining winning tickets at the track.
Following this date, patrons can mail winning tickets to Northville Downs, 47526 Clipper St. PO BOX 701220, Plymouth, MI 48170.
While simulcast betting from the track will cease to exist, bettors will still have the option to use online options. TwinSpires, Xpressbet, FanDuel Racing and NYRA Bets are available for placing horse racing wagers in Michigan.
Initially thought of as just a temporary halt to live horse racing in Michigan, Saturday’s event could be much more than that.
With the Plymouth Township project no longer an option, Northville Downs and horse racing in Michigan could be ending for good.