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Dale Schenian didn't shy from a gamble.

As a prominent Twin Cities businessman, Schenian made a few big bets that paid off. He threw his faith and energy into projects that not many would have stomached, including helping spur the unlikely purchase and reopening of what is now called Canterbury Park.

For all his success, Schenian was known to remember his roots and his friends — always welcoming visitors in Canterbury's owners box with a smile and loud greeting. Schenian died Aug. 25 at the age of 82.

"He was bigger than life," son Mike Schenian said. "He was a force. He was not afraid to take a risk."

Schenian was born on July 4, 1941, in Beaver Dam, Wis. He grew up in South St. Paul, the middle of three boys. Soon after he graduated from high school, he married Bette, his high school sweetheart; they were married 64 years. Mike was their only child.

Schenian started his working career unloading boxcars for a local lumber yard. He would later establish himself in the auto glass industry, purchasing a glass and paint business from a family member before focusing primarily on auto glass repair and replacement. After selling his original business to the Safelite AutoGlass chain, Schenian started City Auto Glass in 1990, which he helped lead until 2000; Mike Schenian succeeded him and remains president. The company was sold in 2015 to its employees.

Schenian started and sold several other businesses, including a Fridley collision center and Damon's, an Inver Grove Heights restaurant now known as B-52 Burgers & Brew.

But Schenian was best known in the Twin Cities for his association with the horse track. In the 1980s, he started a horse breeding operation out of Randolph, Minn., as a hobby and investment, around the time the Canterbury Downs race track opened in Shakopee.

After financial troubles, the track closed in 1992. Horse owners Randy Sampson and his father Curt, whose horses would often compete with Schenian's, had been on the fence about investing to buy the empty track. But a conversation with Schenian changed their mind.

"If you are looking for a partner, I'm in," Randy Sampson remembered Schenian telling them. "That really was a catalyst. It was very instrumental at the time."

Investing their own money, the three purchased Canterbury from Irwin Jacobs and with the help of the racing community opened Canterbury Park in 1994. Live horse racing resumed the next year.

While the Sampsons were more about the numbers, Schenian was "the ideas guy" who would flex his outgoing, "larger than life" persona as the ambassador for Canterbury.

"When Dale walked into a room, the volume went up," said Randy Sampson, who now serves as the chief executive of Canterbury Park.

One of Schenian's ingenious promotional ideas was "Buck Night," a popular weekly event during which admission, hot dogs and drinks were sold for $1.

"He would go [to Canterbury] about four times a week. ... That was his love," Bette Schenian said.

Dale Schenian helped lead Canterbury in different capacities and raced his horses for years. He retired from Canterbury's board of directors in 2019 and assumed an emeritus position with Curt Sampson. More recently, Dale and Bette moved to Florida full time.

A tribute to Schenian is planned for the upcoming Minnesota Festival of Champions at Canterbury Park in September. He had planned to attend.

"The track's going to be a lot quieter," Randy Sampson said.