Rideau Carleton Raceway Casino Celebrates 60th Anniversary

Rideau Carleton Raceway is celebrating its 60th Anniversary during the month of September 2022.

While the Vimy Bridge connected Barrhaven and Rideau Carleton more than eight years ago, the racetrack and the community have a much deeper connection.

In the early 1960s, Mel Barr’s original plan for his 200-acre farm was to build a horse racing track. However, one year earlier, Rideau Carleton Raceway was built across the Rideau River to the east. Barr opted for Plan B, which was to build a housing development. A community was born, and Barrhaven was named after Barr.

Now, 60 years later, Rideau Carleton Raceway Casino has grown, though not nearly at the rate that Barrhaven has. The Vimy Bridge not only makes Rideau Carleton directly accessible to Barrhaven residents – they had to slingshot through Manotick before the bridge was built – but the facility employs many people from Barrhaven.

The racetrack honoured its 60th anniversary milestone with a special event held at their location on Albion Road on Fri., Aug. 26. Over 200 guests gathered at the Rideau Carleton Raceway Casino to celebrate, including a number of politicians and dignitaries who have contributed to the raceway’s success over the last 60 years.

General Manager of Rideau Carleton Raceway Casino Helen MacMillan spoke first and was thrilled at the opportunity to bring everyone together to celebrate this milestone, while also looking ahead to what comes next as development progresses on Future Hard Rock Ottawa.

Carleton MPP Goldie Ghamari, Rideau Carleton Raceway Casino General Manager Helen MacMillan, Director Andrew Wright, and Mayor Jim Watson were on hand to celebrate the 60th Anniversary celebration. (Bente Nielson photo)

“It’s a tremendous milestone for the raceway to reach 60 years of operation. Everyone here takes great pride in the work we do and we’re honoured to have had the chance to be a part of this community for all these years. We will work hard to make sure the future is just as exciting and we have some upcoming announcements that we can’t wait to share. Stay tuned.”

Ottawa’s Mayor Jim Watson also spoke on Friday evening and talked about the positive impact Rideau Carleton Raceway has had on the city, as well as the promising future ahead.

“Since 2000, $91M has come into the city (from OLG as Ottawa is a host gaming community to Rideau Carleton Racetrack Casino), to help various City of Ottawa programs that wouldn’t happen without the racetrack. We look forward to the coming transition to Hard Rock and this place expanding so more jobs can be created and more economic wealth can stay on this side of the river.”

With approximately $6 million in proceeds paid to the City of Ottawa per year (from OLG, as a result of proceeds from Rideau Carleton Racetrack Casino) benefiting local communities and contributing to economic recovery, and an additional $1 million per year in local sponsorships and charitable donations, Rideau Carleton Raceway Casino has had a significant impact on the Ottawa area. The facility is also a significant driver of job creation and employment, having employed over 700 local residents prior to the pandemic.

Track Founded In 1962

Rideau Carleton Raceway’s co-founder George Warren Armstrong was talked about often throughout the evening for his contributions to the racetrack. Armstrong founded the racetrack in 1962 alongside James Baskin and Robert Fasken and was President – as well as so much more – for the next 59 years until his passing in August 2021.

During speeches on Friday night, Carleton MPP Goldie Ghamari held a toast in the memory of Armstrong while other speakers were quick to mention the impact Armstrong had on the racetrack and its patrons, including Racing Manager Peter Andrusek.

“Warren managed Rideau Carleton like a family and nothing bonds a person more than family. That is evident in this room tonight. The stories and emotions we exchange today reflects the impact Warren has made on all of our lives and it remains his legacy for the generations to come. I firmly believe that if he was here today to join us, he’d be damn proud,” said Andrusek.

With Armstrong’s vision in place, the Rideau Carleton Raceway officially opened on September 1st, 1962 as Canada’s first ever five-eighths mile oval and has been a key part of Ontario’s harness racing community ever since. The racetrack remains a family affair to this day. Armstrong’s son-in-law Andrew Wright is the Director of the Rideau Carleton Raceway and spoke about the vision for what’s next.

“We are committed to merge the casino business and the harness racing business for both to help each other thrive. That is the vision we have and with the support of Ontario Racing, OLG and the City of Ottawa, this vision will be realized,” said Wright.

In May 2017, OLG selected Hard Rock Ottawa as the successful new Casino partner for this site. The partnership of HR LP Investor Inc. (owned by Hard Rock International) and RCR Investor Inc. (owned by Rideau Carleton Raceway Holdings Limited) are working to build a new entertainment facility that will bring the iconic brand to Ottawa. Ground breaking was originally planned for April 2020 on the new development, but the pandemic paused construction. Since re-opening in August 2021, the Rideau Carleton Raceway Casino/Future Hard Rock Ottawa have been working toward a new timeline for development.

The public can expect exciting announcements on new developments at Rideau Carleton Raceway Casino/Future Hard Rock Ottawa in the coming months. Also, from September 1st to October 30th, the public can also join in for their chance to win over $200,000 in prizes. There will be 60 daily hot seat draws, one large prize drawn every night at 8pm, and 6 draws of $1000 in free-play credits every Saturday at 8pm.