Canterbury founder dies at 89

  • Article by: DEAN SPIROS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 25, 2008 - 8:04 PM

Brooks Fields served as the first president and CEO of the horse track that opened as Canterbury Downs in 1985.

Brooks Fields, founder of Canterbury Downs

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Brooks Fields, who founded Canterbury Downs (now Canterbury Park) and served as its first president and chief executive officer, died Monday of emphysema at the age of 89.

According to Canterbury President Randy Sampson, Fields was at the track on June 7 for the Brooks Fields Stakes.

"Although it was obvious his health was failing, he was still very sharp mentally and was, as always, grateful for the hospitality and opportunity to see so many of his friends," Sampson said. "He will be missed by those friends, but his legacy will carry on as long as live racing is conducted at the house that Brooks built."

Sampson said he felt a special bond with Fields since they are the only two people to have held the title of President at Canterbury.

"He was a great leader and always treated everyone around him with the utmost respect," Sampson said. "I told him many times that I was honored to be in his company and hoped to be able to live up to the standards he had set."

Fields, a lifelong resident of Minneapolis, graduated from Washburn High School and Yale. He opened Canterbury on June 26, 1985, to a crowd of 15,179.

The facility ran into financial difficulties after the inaugural season. Fields sold the track to Ladbroke Racing Corporation in 1990, with Fields staying on as a consultant.

"We worked hard and spent a lot of money, but things did not go well for us," Fields was quoted as saying in a Star Tribune story at the time of the sale. "But when I look around, I know we brought a major league racing facility to life here, and we fed it with our blood and guts.

"With all the negative publicity about our financial troubles, people probably never realized that a racing industry worth several hundred millions of dollars was being built in Minnesota where none existed before."

Fields also was a member and past president of Interlachen Country Club in Edina, the site of this week's U.S. Women's Open.

Among Fields' survivors are his wife, Lucy, his four children and four stepchildren. Fields' first wife, Martha, passed away in 1999 at 79.

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