Michigan’s Northville Downs Horse Racing Track Closing in February

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Northville Downs, the last remaining horse racing track in Michigan, will host its final race on February 3, 2024 at its current location in Northville. The Michigan Gaming Control Board announced the news via a statement on January 17.

This marks the end of an 80-year-long journey at its 301 S. Center Street location.

Founded by John Carlo, Northville Downs has been a significant part of Michigan horse racing’s history. It opened in September 1944 as the first Michigan track to offer nighttime racing and pari-mutuel betting. It became the last survivor of a one-time thriving sector when Hazel Park Raceway shut up shop in 2018.

The closure of Northville Downs comes in the wake of a $300 million redevelopment project which will transform the site into a mix of more than 400 housing units, commercial spaces, and several parks.

However, this may not spell the end for Northville Downs, or Michigan horse racing. The track plans to relocate to a new, 128-acre site near the corner of Five Mile and Ridge Roads in neighboring Plymouth Township, according to the Michigan Gaming Control Board.

“The Michigan Gaming Control Board expresses our deepest gratitude to all of the Northville Downs patrons who have made each race day memorable and thrilling,” the Board’s Executive Director Henry Williams said in the statement.

“We appreciate the support of those who have kept Northville Downs going for 80 years, and look forward to the next chapter of horse racing in Michigan at a new location.”

Existing Operations and New Beginnings

The final race at Northville will take place on February 3. Before then are four more race days, on January 26 and 27 and Feb. 2 and 3.

Simulcast horse betting will remain open for two days after live racing, but will close on February 5. Former patrons then have five days to cash any outstanding winnings in person. From February 10 on, any valid winning tickets can only be claimed through the mail.

Northville Downs, still family-owned and operated, says it will return simulcast horse race betting at its new facility.

The proposed new location in Plymouth Township will feature an entirely new harness racing facility. The proposed 128-acre site is in the Michigan International Technology Corridor, some 4.5 miles from the current location.

The proposed development includes a half-mile oval harness racetrack, a grandstand, a patio area, a racing building, a horse barn, and a maintenance building. Local horsemen are big supporters of the idea, unsurprisingly. But some members of the community have opposed the plans, so its future is far from certain.

This transition not only represents a significant change for Northville Downs, but also for Michigan’s horse racing industry.

The state, which once had four tracks offering pari-mutuel betting, saw a peak attendance of 3.9 million fans in 1971. Since then, it has seen a gradual decline in the industry.

The wider U.S. business lost several longstanding horse racing tracks in 2023, including the final Northern California horse racing track, Golden Gate Fields, and Arizona horse racing’s Turf Paradise, which opened in 1956.

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