Canterbury Park has unveiled its plans for the 2021 racing season, proposing a 65-day meet from May 18-Sept. 16 that would include racing on Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
The schedule, which must be approved by the Minnesota Racing Commission, reintroduces Sunday afternoon racing after a one-year hiatus. The pandemic forced major changes to last summer's meet, including a shift to weekday evenings to capture more out-of-state wagering. With attendance limited to fewer than 1,000 spectators, the schedule change boosted out-of-state handle by 116%, but Canterbury officials are hopeful more fans can attend the races next summer.
The Shakopee track also expects to raise purses by 13%, restoring them to the pre-pandemic level of about $220,000 per day. The request, which could be amended if COVID-19 is still affecting public gatherings, will be considered at the commission's December meeting.
"We intend to run a more typical 65-day meet in 2021," said Andrew Offerman, Canterbury's vice president of racing operations. "We have learned a lot about safely conducting a racing season during very trying circumstances. We will build on that knowledge next season, knowing there may be subsequent changes and alterations to the schedule."
Canterbury ran 53 days last summer, starting about a month late on June 10. By racing Mondays through Thursdays, when there was less competition for out-of-state wagering, total handle rose to a track-record $68.4 million. But the drop in daily attendance from 6,500 to about 750 gutted revenue from admissions, concession sales and on-track wagering, which are critical to Canterbury's financial health.
John Groen, the track's vice president of marketing, said promotions such as wiener dog races and fireworks shows could return on Sunday afternoons next summer if attendance restrictions ease.
The proposed schedule includes racing on Memorial Day, Labor Day and July 3. There is a nine-day break in July while the track hosts Twin Cities Summer Jam, a three-day music festival.