What Would Happen after Demolition of Wonderland Greyhound Park?
Back in the day, Wonderland Greyhound Park, which is located in Revere, was able to lure thousands of people who love to bet on a game involving dogs. This game used a mechanical rabbit that was called Swifty, and it would go around the outdoor track while the dogs chased after it. Those days are gone as demolition work for the park has recently begun.
The city of Boston owed much of its economic growth to Wonderland as it employed a great number of people. In the 80s, this dog track even grossed over $1 million on four separate events, showing that it was a thriving business.
Unfortunately, it got hit by the popularity of the full-service casinos around the area, particularly in Rhode Island and Connecticut. This happened in the 90s, causing dwindling of live racing of greyhounds. Also, there was also tough competition with offshore gaming and lottery scratch tickets. Later on, there was no other choice for Wonderland Greyhound Park but to close.
The last race that was held live at the track was back in 2009. It was almost one year after the voters in the state of Massachusetts approved of a ballot question that caused greyhound racing to be banned statewide beginning the following year. Wagering continued but it eventually halted its operations in the summer of 2010, and it did so for good.
The park first started in 1935, and as mentioned, it was still operational until 2010. During its active years, the track was considered one of the most popular destinations for enthusiasts of greyhound racing. It had loyal patrons for its over 75 years in the business.
During its closing, there were no press conferences or anything that showed the track was well-loved for several years. The closure of the business was due to the Massachusetts Greyhound Protection Act, which prohibited all commercial dog racing events. Before that, Wonderland already issued a statement about not being able to compete with other businesses because of the drastically changed market for gaming.
Because of the event, about 75 to 80 employees were first laid off as a result of the closing. The CEO of the track said that those people were already informed before the terminating of operations took place. Many of the employees worked at the company for more than a decade.
The greyhound track was still able to simulcast its betting events. It means that they still accepted bets from other parts of the country. However, there was a proposed bill that also targeted simulcasting.
Meanwhile, the owners of Suffolk Downs and Wonderland Greyhound Park came to an agreement in 2008 that they would partner together to create a potential casino. In the agreement, there was a part of the contract that included an opt on for Suffolk Downs owners to purchase the Wonderland park. It was also in the agreement that the horse racetrack owners would develop Wonderland if the casino was authorized to operate in Suffolk Downs.
At that time, there were only two greyhound racing establishments in the state with the other one being the Plainridge Racecourse, which was situated in Plainville. The company announced that it would lay off 30% of its employees due to a decrease in revenue as well as political impasse over gambling. However, the other racing track remained open for simulcasting.
Suffolk Downs was also affected even though it was still open. It declared to the public that there would be a reduction in the average purse distribution.
The Streets Remained Busy Despite Wonderland’s Closing
Even though the time when Wonderland Greyhound Park drew in gamblers, along with their cars, from several parts of the region, cars would still fill the parking lots of Wonderland. The parking spaces were on the VFW Parkway, and it still looked like the lots were very busy.
The clubhouse in the park was already rotting and yet it was surrounded by vehicles a few months before the start of the demolition. The biggest reason for this is that the clubhouse was surrounded by several vehicles, which were stored at the area by rental companies. These vehicles were there because the parking site was quite close to the Logan International Airport.
Revere city councilor, John Powers, believed that the cars in the area were parking illegally. According to him, the number of cars that were parked at the site increased a great deal. If anyone would look at a property, he or she would mistake the area as the Gillette Stadium. The owners of the property are required to hold a special permit and a license – both of which should be provided. Otherwise, they cannot park the cars there.
Based on the observation of the authorities, there were about 750 cars in the area, and they were all parked unlawfully. Meetings were held in order to stop the cars from using the space. The owner of the property later agreed to pay this part of the city of Boston $18,500 yearly to get the approval for the parking area.
The owners actually had the special permit from the city group. However, it was going to expire in 2015, so it is no longer usable today. Without the permit, the licensing board of the city of Boston did not allow the owners to get the reissuance of the license. The president of the City Council confirmed that it is possible for them to have the parked cars towed. However, the group did not want to perform such task.
According to Revere Councilor Powers, there are a number of residents who would complain about the constant beeping of trucks in the area. The cars are situated on the grass, just nearby the 38-acre park.
Starting the Demolition Process
The Wonderland Greyhound Park is no longer up and running, but its facilities were still around. No major developments were focused on the site until recently. The relics of the park, from the clubhouse to the grandstands, are being demolished.
The owners of the track are still looking for a buyer that is willing to pay for the 38-acre track. They are currently expecting a lot of offers because it is a famous park with a rich history and the sprawling space are more than enticing. Aside from that, the site is located in a prime setting. It is situated on VFW Parkway, just close to the Wonderland Station on the Blue Line of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
The demolition started just 82 years after the start of the race track. Many people, including employees of the track, can still remember that about 5,000 individuals went to the track during its first few weeks of operation. In its first day, there were more than 5,000 people, and they all watched another citizen win the first ever greyhound race in the establishment. Gamblers bet almost $60,000 during that time.
What Will Become of the Wonderland Property?
The owners of the track are made up of investors from New York and Boston. Recently, these people also sold a racetrack called Suffolk Downs, which is nearby Wonderland. The Suffolk Downs buyer is a developer who bought the area for $155 million. The plan for the horse track is to turn it into housing and retail space.
As for the Wonderland Greyhound Park, demolition of the facilities on the site has started. However, there are still no clues as to what will happen to the track. According to the Mayor of Revere, Brian Arrigo, the redevelopment of the Wonderland site is important to the economic future of the area as well as the city of Boston.
There are some speculations though that the owner of the major site might do the same as with Suffolk Downs. That is, they will sell the property and give it to the most generous buyer. Aside from this theory, there are also assumptions that the area could become the next headquarters for Amazon. The retail giant is currently looking for a place to build its second HQ, and Massachusetts is among the states that have submitted a proposal.
Another guess for the site is that it could become a part of the Boston initiative to provide more housing for the people by 2030. If not the HQ for Amazon or even a residential building, there is also the possibility of construing a business campus similar to the Flower Exchange site, which is located in the South End of the city.
While the future of the Wonderland Greyhound Park is still unclear, the owners of the property are already looking for an enthusiastic buyer. They believe that there is a huge opportunity waiting for the company that will purchase the area. It can be transformed into any kind of business that would really benefit from the easy access to public transportation, the beach, and the international airport nearby.
Aside from the possibilities mentioned above, some of the former employees who witnessed the first part of the demolition commented that the community could be converted into an entertainment complex that features office space, shops, and restaurants. It would make the track similar to the famous Assembly Row.