Frequently Asked Questions about the Sturbridge Agricultural & Equestrian Center

General

What is the Sturbridge Agricultural and Equestrian Center?

The Sturbridge Agricultural and Equestrian Center will be a state of the art, green complex with a racetrack, sports bar, in-person and online betting, farming programs and community amenities. It will be located on 298.54 acres off I-84. 

Besides racing, what else will happen on project?

In addition to 10 racing days, with up to 12 races per day, the project will also host 10 non-racing festival days which will be scheduled on “shoulder” season days so as not to conflict with or exacerbate existing events.

There will also be  a farmers’ market and community events. It will feature sports fields, community gardens and nature trails. 

Who are the partners behind the project?

The Sturbridge Agricultural and Equestrian Center is the vision of local businessman, and horse breeder and owner Armand Janjigian and his wife Robin Kalaidjian, and Board member of Farm Aid, horse enthusiast, rancher, and resort developer Richard T. Fields. 

Richard Fields has been an active business owner, investor, and developer for nearly fifty years in hundreds of projects. In fact, he has held licenses and permits across the country without conflict. Richard is a good neighbor and valued member of the community in each of the cities and towns where he has established a business.

You claim there will only be 10 race days and 10 festival days a year. How can the town guarantee you will not increase those days?

The Host Community Agreement and the Agricultural Entertainment Overlay District are two tools the Town of Sturbridge can use to legally regulate and limit what can and cannot happen at the SAEC. The Overlay District would amend the existing town zoning bylaws and clearly state what can and cannot happen on the project. The Host Community Agreement is a legal document outlining the benefits, payments, and operations between the SAEC and the Town of Sturbridge. The amount of racing days will be stated in these legally binding documents. 

What is the Host Community Agreement?

The Host Community Agreement is a legally binding document outlining the benefits, payments, and operations between the SAEC and the Town of Sturbridge. The host community agreement will provide the Town with approximately $1 million in new annual revenues and benefits, and more than 100 jobs for local residents. It will also require the hiring of police details for the limited number of events each year as well as prohibiting project access from Breakneck Road. Finally, the new I-84 interchange will allow the town to take all the current commercial traffic and trucks servicing the landfill and recycling center off Breakneck Rd. 

What is the overlay zone?

As part of the approval process for the Center, the Agricultural Entertainment Overlay District (AEOD) would be established as an amendment to the existing Town of Sturbridge Zoning Bylaws if approved by citizens at the October 28 town meeting. The AEOD, a legally binding document, would allow for the development of the project, and only this project, as an Equine Center that includes uses for the housing, riding, breeding, showing, study, treatment, training, education about, and racing of horses. It will include a racetrack, a terraced grandstand, a sports bar with in-person and online betting, and festival areas for family-friendly events. It will also include areas for community agricultural and recreational uses that are already permitted within the existing Rural Residential zoning district of the project. The AEOD will prohibit establishments such as a Casino with table games, slot machines, or other forms of gambling that are not related to horse racing. 

What are the next steps in this process? Will the residents have a say in the project approval?

The Board of Selectmen held a public hearing and took a vote to approve the project for the SAEC. On Monday, September 20, the Board of Selectmen voted to set the next Town Meeting for Thursday, October 28 at 7pm at Tantasqua Regional High School. 

The Planning Board voted to approve the AEOD on September 28th after a public hearing. 

Should the approval be given at town meeting, we would then begin the process of getting the necessary local permits and state authorizations for the SAEC. At each step, we will be required to follow the rules put forth in the Overlay District and the HCA, as well as abide by the local and state regulations that require additional hearings and opportunities for public comment. 

Our goal is to partner with the residents of Sturbridge at every step so we can all succeed together.

How many people will attend race days?

We estimate 7,000 in attendance. 

What are the benefits for the town?

  • $1 million in new annual revenue and benefits to the town
  • Creation of 100 jobs for local residents
  • Economic activity in local hotels and restaurants 
  • 4-5 athletic fields with support building with restroom and snack bar
  • Community recreation center for the educational programs such as 4-H, art classes, “Ag in the classroom”, Boys and Girls Scouts, etc.
  • Approximately 2.5 miles of educational trails to support community health and education of natural environment.
  •  Community Gardens
  • Covered Pavilion for use for farmer’s market, 4-H activities. 

Will you be paying property taxes? Are you requesting any special tax breaks from the Town?

YES, we will be paying property taxes, which is part of the $1m in new annual revenue. We will not be seeking any special tax breaks from the Town of Sturbridge.

Business of the Center

We hear there will be gaming at the Center. Is this going to be a casino? 

No. There will be no casino-related activities on project. No slots, no tables, no construction of a casino. This will be legally restricted and forbidden in the proposed Overlay District zoning. Additionally, historic racing machines are illegal in Massachusetts.

Horse racing is a dying industry, what makes you think this facility will be successful?

The SAEC will make money from well-regulated with live and simulcast horse racing and wagering and in-person and online sports betting.  All gambling at the SAEC will be highly regulated by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. The SAEC will be legally required to follow all of the guidelines, laws and regulations as outlined by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. 

How much gambling will take place at the center? 

Modern off track and sports betting is not like placing bets 50 years ago. Today, nearly 90% of all betting takes place on a cell phone from someone sitting at home. 

Traffic

Will there be access to the facility from Breakneck Road?

The legally binding Host Community Agreement will prohibit access from Breakneck Road for all festival patrons and vendors, while requiring the hiring of police details for the limited number of events each year. 

Sturbridge’s traffic, especially on Route 20, is a nightmare especially during Brimfield and other local festivals. How will this project affect traffic and how do you plan to manage it?

All access to the project will come via a new interchange off I-84. If the I-84 interchange is not approved, this project will not move forward. 

All events at the project will be scheduled during “shoulder” season days to avoid conflicts with existing and regular community events.   

Recreation

How many athletic fields will be on site? 

At the moment we have four fields in the plan. The recreational vision we have proposed to the town is a concept only. We hope to partner with the recreation committee/community to finalize plans on what is needed to meet the town’s needs.

Who will own the fields? 

The fields will be owned and managed by the Recreation Department of the Town of Sturbridge. The arrangement will be outlined in the Host Community Agreement. 

Will this project serve Senior Citizens?

The whole facility is being designed to be a family friendly place and that includes seniors. 

We have met with the Seniors and the Senior Center Director who gave us valuable insight as to their needs and we are currently incorporating them into site, including to provide bus transportation from the Senior Center to the SAEC for seniors to enjoy the facilities, for a senior accessible section of the community gardens and for senior specific outdoor exercise space and equipment.

What happens to the fields if the Center goes bankrupt?

The Host Community Agreement gives the Town of Sturbridge ownership of the fields, regardless of the status of the Center. That said, we are committed to being long-term partners with Sturbridge.

How many miles of trails are available to the public? Do they damage the wetlands?

There are 2.3 miles of nature trails that weave through the entire project. We will work with the appropriate boards in town to maintain and preserve the wetlands

Horses

Racing has a history of being cruel to horses. How can you protect horses and be concerned for their health and safety?

The SAEC is a facility built for horse enthusiasts by horse enthusiasts. Both Fields and Janjigian have more than 50 years breeding, raising and taking care of horses. Janigian and his wife Robin, own a farm in Medfield where they raise and take care of horses of all ages. Fields is a leader in establishing anti-slaughter and anti-doping regulations at his facilities. He was the first to implement anti-slaughter regulations in the country, and would buy horses from owners who could no longer provide care for the horse. 

Owners who failed his strict anti-doping regulations were banned from his facilities. Fields has zero tolerance for the mistreatment of horses, and that high standard will be found in every part of the SAEC. 

Public Safety

Gambling brings crime. What efforts are you taking to prevent rampant crime in Sturbridge?

The SAEC will have its own security team, along with working with the Town of Sturbridge Police Department and the Massachusetts State Police. 

In addition, the host community agreement requires the hiring of police details for the limited number of events each year. 

Housing

Where will the jockeys, trainers and groomers stay during race days?

Jockeys and trainers will stay at local hotels and inns. Groomers will be staying on project in temporary quarters to care for the horses.

Will there be housing at the center?

There will be a caretaker home for on-project, round the clock, staff and veterinarian use for the care of stabled horses and grounds. These individuals are the only ones who are living onproject to ensure the health and safety of the horses, and the safety of the SAEC.