Bringing The Horsemen Home

Investor, groups working on plan for horse racing track to revive MA industry.


Courtesy Town of Rowley

An artist’s rendering of a potential race track in Rowley.

Rowley residents were recently told that their small town would be receiving three hundred to four hundred cars per day if a proposed plan for a massive race track is passed.

The information was passed on during a town meeting on Monday, October 21, where a longtime Rowley citizen,  Mr. Graham, voiced his concerns over the possible failure of the course, stating the project could become “an economic Dunkirk.”  Over the past few years since the collapse of Suffolk Downs, the Massachusetts Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and the Rowley Group LLC have been searching for a place to put a new horse-racing track. They finally settled on Rowley but are only in the very beginning steps of the process, as the town would have to change the current zoning laws. 

The groups said they hope to “bring our horsemen home,” and revive the horse racing industry in the state. 

Residents came out in force, as the original town meeting was moved from the town hall to Pine Grove Elementary School due to the large turnout. Many in Rowley are worried about the repercussions of this $60 million development, especially traffic and noise. Sandra from 155 Daniels Road said, “what you’re not talking about is what is traffic going to do and the carbon emissions to our respiratory, and our asthma and allergy, and health and wellness…what are the decibels in noise going to do to our physical and psychological being…”

 Not only could the project affect students in Rowley, but it has the potential to affect students in the surrounding areas as well. With so many cars coming in and out, it could force some students to wake up earlier in order to get to school on time, in addition to practices, work, and other extracurricular activities.

 The attorney representing the groups, Robert Scarano, also detailed the amount of traffic that would come with the track. He said that the 280 acre plot would contain one thousand parking spaces, with around 300-400 cars expected on race days.

The track, if successful, could contribute to both the town budget and local farmers. The groups claim that it could generate $500 million for the state, and over $250,000 per quarter towards the towns budget. Additionally, the track could generate around 200 jobs, although a portion of those will require people educated on equine related topics. However, some citizens expressed their worries that a portion of the money generated would be derived from a casino. Scarano assured them that there would be no casino involved, despite almost all horse-racing tracks today being supported by some form of a casino.

In addition to the amount of revenue that could be brought in, the facility will be built by the world-renowned architectural firm, Populous, which has created over 3000 projects previously, including 60 horse racing tracks. The clubhouse the company designed follows the structure of their other projects, with it being 100,000 square feet and a box-like shape with three floors.

Nonetheless, this meeting and plan are still in the infantile steps. The Board of Selectmen Chairman, Clifford Pierce, told the attendants the board would first have to approve the land proposal, and then two-thirds of registered voters would have to approve the necessary zoning changes…which could take up to year.

A lack of time represents a possible problem for the Rowley Group LLC and the MTHA because they only have ownership of the land for a maximum of two years.

When speaking on the treatment of the so called “equine athletes,” a veterinarian representing the group, Dr. Richard Sheehan, said ‘it is amazing to see how the horses are cared for…sometimes better than the people.”

Emotions throughout this 2 ½ hour ordeal were running high, and multiple times throughout the presentation laughter could be heard from the crowd. At one point, a man played a mimicking trumpet sound byte from his phone after a statement from Scarano.

So far, the small town of Rowley has shown a large pushback against this proposed horse racing track. The investor, John Grossi, has put thousands of dollars into the project already, but the residents seem determined to topple his investment. 

Any residents who wanted to further contact groups were directed to the website, where questions can be directly answered by a representative of the group.