06/24/2008 11:00PM

Fields, Canterbury's founder, dead

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Brooks Fields, the founder and the first chief executive officer of Canterbury Downs, died Monday following a lengthy battle with chronic emphysema at the age of 89.

Fields, along with his nephew Brooks Hauser, formed Minnesota Racetrack Inc. after a constitutional amendment allowing parimutuel wagering on horse racing was approved by Minnesota voters in 1982.

Naming Santa Anita as its primary partner, Minnesota Racetrack Inc. was awarded the state's first racetrack license by the Minnesota Racing Commission and the facility in Shakopee held its first race on June 26, 1985.

The introduction of the state's lottery and the widespread growth of casino gaming at Native American-hosted facilities in the area saw Canterbury Downs business repeatedly fall below revenue projections, and the track was sold in 1990 to Ladbroke Racing PLC.

After the Ladbroke ownership was denied the right to continue simulcasting when it would not guarantee a live race meeting in 1993, the track was shuttered and ultimately sold to its current owners.

A lifelong resident of Minneapolis, Fields attended Washburn High School before graduating from Yale University. During World War II, Fields worked for the United States Army Counter-Intelligence division and as a result attended the service's language school at Cornell. Following additional training at the U.S. Army Cavalry School at Fort Riley, Kansas, Fields was stationed in China as an interpreter.

Following the war, Fields returned to Minneapolis, where he worked as a grain merchandiser for Pillsbury Mills and subsequently as the executive vice president of the Burdick Grain Company for nearly three decades. Fields' other business endeavors included the founding of Northwest Business Services and Lancers Clothing Stores. He served on the board of directors of the Apache Oil Corporation and the board of trustees of Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash.

A memorial service is scheduled for Fields at Mt. Olivet Church in Minneapolis for Friday at 5:30 p.m.