Woodbine to Build Entertainment Complex
by Jennifer Morrison
Date Posted: 7/28/2005 2:22:59 PM

Woodbine Entertainment Group enters a new era in horse racing and entertainment with its announcement today that, in partnership with American-based The Cordish Co., the Toronto track will build a $310 million, 25-acre entertainment district on the track's property.

Christened "Woodbine Live!" the project, which is expected to get underway in 2006, the track's 50th anniversary, and be completed by the end of 2007, will feature a hotel overlooking the track with a pool oasis, cinemas, a multi-purpose live performance hall, and other entertainment venues such as restaurants, bars, clubs, and retail shops.

The development, which is phase one of several more planned phases of development, will be located on the northwest side of the track.

Woodbine Live! is the first Canadian project for The Cordish Co., a family-owned Baltimore-based development company that has won six Urban Land Institute Awards for Excellence and has created other development centers such as Fourth Street Live! in Louisville, Ky., and two Hard Rock Hotel and Casino complexes that opened in Tampa and Hollywood, Fla., last year.

The entertainment development is expected to create more than 1,100 jobs during the construction period and, when completed, generate more than 2,300 permanent jobs. Woodbine Live! is also expected to generate more than $1.5 billion in economic benefits to all levels of government.

"This is the first phase of the continuing development of our 150 acres of excess land," said David Willmot, president and chief executive officer of Woodbine. "That evolution will be rolled out over the next 10 years but phase one is the most critical to what we do for the sport of horse racing.

"We want the expansion to bring millions more people to the area and create a great entertainment destination for not only Toronto by southern Ontario."

David Cordish believes the partnership of his family's company and W.E.G. is a perfect union if not an unusual one.

"All of the elements that we look for were defined in one project and that is rare," said Cordish. "Woodbine happens to be non-profit and many of our projects are partnerships with governments with non-profit entities or sports franchises. In entertainment more is more--the more uses you combine in one location, the more successful you'll be. Woodbine is the right location, with enough land and four major highways nearby."

Cordish also said the preservation of horse racing at Woodbine was imperative.

"There will be no change to the existing horse racing complex," said Cordish. "The theme will be to celebrate horse racing and make it current by surrounding it with a live district."

Woodbine and Cordish are 50-50 partners in the cost of the development.

"It will (be paid for) by debt financing since that is how Woodbine, as a not-for-profit entity, can raise money," said Jane Holmes, vice president of corporate affairs for W.E.G. "We will also be putting the equity of our land into the development."

Woodbine and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. installed 1,700 slot machines at the track in 1999 and the track underwent $110 million in improvements to its facility.

Woodbine is the only track in North America that can race Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds on one day. Its unique grass course, the E.P. Taylor turf course, is also unusual since it encircles the one-mile main track.

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