10/15/2010 12:12PM

New management sees plenty of positives


FORT ERIE, Ontario – The 2010 Fort Erie meeting, which ends Oct. 26, was the first under the management of Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium, and the overall response from fans and horsemen has been positive.

The track, formerly run by Nordic Gaming, was leased to the Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium, which is led by chief executive officer Jim Thibert.
“My background in the horse racing business was negligible,” said Thibert, “and the search for a strong management team had to be our first priority.

“Rick Cowan and John Whitson came aboard as chief operating officer and racing secretary, respectively, and their expertise has been invaluable.”
Thibert also is the general manager of the Fort Erie Economic Development and Tourism Corporation. He has enjoyed a varied career, including time in the forestry, rail, shipping, and steel industries.

Thibert has had to call on all of his experience this season at Fort Erie

“There are an incredible number of items that combine to make it all work,” he said. “In some instances, you have control, such as the operation of your plant and activities like promotions, food services, security, mutuels, and cleaning.

“However, in addition to those, there are hundreds of independent operators such as trainers and jockeys that are essential to a successful operation. A team effort is needed to accomplish our goals, and having everyone contributing to the maximum is a challenge.”

Thibert has been on the scene throughout the racing season and even cashed a $2 wager on a 45-1 shot. He is open to assisting where he can and did his share as the chief cook and bottle washer at the track’s barbecue.

He appreciates the opportunity to host an event as prestigious as the Prince of Wales Stakes, the second leg of the Canadian triple crown.
Thibert’s bottom line is that everyone involved with the track must contribute their best efforts.

“We are a small community with limited resources, and everyone must do their part, and ideally, a little extra,” Thibert said.

“There are some people who prefer to only do what is tasked. That will not make us successful in the long run.”

Thibert added some thoughts regarding next year.

“A number of promotions this year proved successful, and we intend to build on those winners, beginning with opening day on Saturday, May  7, Kentucky Derby Day.”

* A new motor speedway is in the planning stages and a new marina project is going forward in Fort Erie.

“They will both enhance our community and the multiplier factor in a moving dollar will reach all corners, including the racetrack,” said Thibert, who is a strong advocate of both projects.