It’s great to see more than 6,000 people enjoyed racing this past weekend at Suffolk Downs, ignoring rain and sampling food truck fare.
Peak attendance just shy of the 7,000 mark proves pounding hooves, a view from the grandstand and the thrill of a wager can still draw people to an institution that has helped define Revere through the years.
The face of racing for almost a decade in the city has been the grim view of the former Wonderland Greyhound Park visible from North Shore Road. Commuters headed to and from Boston and local drivers are treated to the sight of the once-proud dog track’s slow decay. The broken windows and crumbling roof line are a testament to the statewide referendum vote that doomed racing and killed Wonderland.
Suffolk has survived even in the wake of the state Gaming Commission decision to make Everett, not Revere, a Greater Boston casino site. The Wynn resort promises to pour gambling cash into the city of Everett’s coffers and into the budgets of surrounding cities. The passed-over proposal for a Suffolk Downs casino kept the magic of the track alive and incorporated racing into the concept of a 21st-century gambling venue.
That vision is worth preserving at Suffolk even as the track finds itself on the verge of new life as a major development site. With imagination and modernization applied, racing can survive even as the huge site around the track complex sees new uses.
The track’s history and heritage deserves to be preserved as part of an overall vision for the Suffolk Downs site.
The track enjoys a storied past as a racecourse and a music venue but Suffolk’s history is also Revere’s heritage. Generations of local residents worked at the track and fed their families and sustained careers built around horse racing. People took pride in the track and Suffolk Downs drew racing fans from around the Boston area even as it drew the best of the racing world to Revere and East Boston.
History will be lost once Wonderland falls to the wrecking ball. But efforts to save history and enshrine a local landmark for the enjoyment of future generations almost always benefits a community. Preserving Suffolk Downs and keeping horse racing alive is a chance to save a proud part of Revere’s history in the same way Revere Beach has been preserved and improved.
With two rapid transit stops and direct highway access to Boston and Logan International Airport, the Suffolk site offers plenty of acreage for innovative development that can attract new businesses to Revere and East Boston and provide local residents with jobs.
The next chance for live racing and the summer food truck festival at Suffolk Downs is Sept. 2 and 3. Anyone who scoffs at the thrill of thundering hooves and the magic of the track is invited to come down to Suffolk and put cynicism to the test.