07/27/2005 11:00PM

$310M complex planned


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Woodbine Entertainment Group and The Cordish Company, a Baltimore-based developer, have unveiled plans for a $310 million entertainment district on the Woodbine property.

David Willmot, Woodbine's chairman and chief executive officer, and David Cordish of The Cordish Company jointly announced the project at a news conference Thursday.

The first phase will involve 25 acres of the approximately 150 acres of excess land here. The development will be financed jointly by Woodbine and The Cordish Company, which specializes in retail/entertainment and mixed-use projects and has worked with several sports franchises, including the St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants, and Pittsburgh Steelers.

"Woodbine represents the right partner, with the right location, and many acres to develop over many years," said David Cordish. "It's ideal for us."

Features of "Woodbine Live," as the district will be known, will include a hotel, restaurants, clubs, shops, a performance hall, and movie theaters interspersed with walkways, parks, and fountains in a modern architectural setting.

A key component of the area, which will be located directly adjacent to the existing racetrack facility, will be a WEGZ Sports Stadium, a 20,000-square-foot facility offering wagering in a supersized sports-bar setting. The first WEGZ Stadium opened in nearby Vaughan last fall and has been a critical and financial success.

"There will be no change to the existing horse racing complex," said Cordish. "Everything we do will be outside of this."

Willmot said Woodbine had been seeking an appropriate partner for several years and had not wavered in its demand that any development must be compatible with the core businesses of horse racing and the slots casino.

"Our board of directors has been constant that any development here would be entertainment-related," said Willmot. "We want to draw people to the site."

Jane Holmes, vice president of corporate development for Woodbine, said work on the project could begin next year, with the first phase scheduled to be completed within two years. Approximately 2,300 permanent jobs will be created.

David Miller, mayor of Toronto, and Monte Kwinter, an Ontario cabinet minister, also spoke.