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The European Foxboro Park: Tor di Valle, Italy
Tuesday, April 01, 2014 - by Tim Bojarski

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As many will recall, it wasn’t long ago that declining handles and the pending construction of a new NFL stadium spelled the end for Foxboro Park racetrack back in 1997. Once again a longtime racing venue was shuttered to make way for a shopping mall, subdivision or in this case, a football stadium.

As disturbing as this is for any member of the industry, it is not limited just to North America.

In 2013, Ippodromo Tor di Valle, which is located a short distance southwest of Rome, ran its final race. Relaxed gaming rules in Italy have made betting lotteries and sports very popular and as a result, fewer people are betting on horses. It has hurt the Standardbred industry there immensely and forced the closure of this track (along with four others) which had been operating for decades. The track operators said while Italians are now gambling more than ever, their sport has been “disastrously neglected by the government” and as a result, have been forced to shut down.

In what may not come as a surprise to the cynical mind, the valuable property that the track had occupied has already been slated for reuse.

A new $414 million soccer stadium for the Italian Serie A club Roma will be built on the site of the former Tor di Valle racetrack.

This past Wednesday (March 26) plans were announced for the construction of a new $414 million soccer stadium dubbed “the new Coliseum” for the Italian Serie A club Roma, on the site of the former Tor di Valle racetrack.

Stadio della Roma (as it is currently being called) will hold up to 60,000 spectators and is set to open for the 2016-17 season. It will have 50 luxury boxes, 1,000 restrooms and 245 concession stands. There will also be a training facility (not for horses) built along with mixed-use dining and entertainment outlets to form a new destination district. It will also call for additional infrastructure to be built to make it easily accessible to both downtown Rome and the Fiumicino Airport.

But what really makes this eerily similar to what happened to Foxboro Park is that the team the stadium is being built for was purchased by a four-man group of investors from Boston in 2011, led by hedge fund manager James Pallotta. The group initially paid a reported $89 million for two-thirds of the team at the time of purchase.

This is not the first professional sports team Pallotta has owned as he is currently a minority owner of the Boston Celtics. But his group represents the first foreign investors ever to buy an Italian soccer club.

There is no doubt this is a precarious time for harness racing and this story illustrates the problem is wide spread. The unfortunate thing is the circumstances surrounding our woes, no matter the location, seem to be common. It just makes you wonder who the next racing jurisdiction to fall is and what may already have been planned to be built in its place.

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