The Last Race at Northville Downs: End of an Era for Michigan’s Last Racetrack
On February 3, Northville Downs, the last surviving racetrack in Michigan, ran its final race. The 80-year-old harness racing venue in Detroit is now set to be demolished to make way for a $250 million mixed-development project. This closure marks another blow to the declining horse racing industry in America. Once the most popular spectator sport in the nation, over 40 tracks have shut down across the US since 2000, with grandstands that were once filled with thousands of spectators now hosting only a few dozen.
The closure of Northville Downs reminded longtime regulars of the “good old days” when it was the only game in town. On its final day of racing, the stands were packed out, resembling the scene from 50 years ago. However, in recent years, Northville Downs has faced tough competition with the rise of other gambling activities in the state, including Detroit’s three commercial casinos, 23 Native American casinos across the state, along with online casinos, poker, sports betting, and internet lottery sales.
The Carlo family, owners of Northville Downs, had been in negotiations to relocate their operations by building a new harness racing facility in Plymouth Township, but recent negotiations broke down with Plymouth officials. The proposal faced local opposition, and the Plymouth Township Board of Trustees voted to reject the plan, citing concerns about gambling, animal welfare, and disruptive changes to the quiet township.
Despite this setback, the Carlo family is still exploring possible alternatives, leaving a glimmer of hope for live racing to return to Michigan. However, at the moment, the revival of live racing at Northville Downs seems unlikely, marking the end of an era for the state’s last racetrack.