REVERE — Clifford “Cliffy” Pisano watched in awe as a bulldozer put an end to the historic Wonderland Greyhound Park on Friday.
“I can’t believe it’s coming down,” he said. “My very first job in the 1980s was in the kitchen where I made lots of friends and good memories.”
The 52-year-old Revere native, Mayor Brian Arrigo and two city councilors were on hand as a construction crew began the two week job of leveling the 142,500-square-foot facility on the VFW Parkway.
“It’s a relic of a bygone era,” said Arrigo. “But this is an exciting first step. Now we have to consider how to move forward to make sure the city’s vision and the owner’s vision match for what happens next.”
The demolition comes 82 years after the storied race track opened in the summer of 1935. The 5,000 patrons that day watched Pansy Walker win the first greyhound race at the track as nearly $60,000 was on the line by gamblers.
Wonderland is owned by CBW Lending LLC, the former owners of Suffolk Downs. They include Coastal Development, a New York firm led by developer Richard Fields, and concessionaire Joseph O’Donnell, who has plans for a waterfront apartment building near the General Edwards Bridge in Lynn. The third partner, Vornado Realty Trust, is the New York real estate investment trust that angered the late Mayor Thomas M. Menino by stopping construction at the former Filene’s site in Boston and leaving a giant hole in the ground in Downtown Crossing for years.
The three owners are looking for a buyer, the mayor said.
Arrigo, who worked at the race track as a dog walker while a student at Suffolk University 15 years ago, said the 28-acre site was an employment hub for hundreds of workers. He wants it to stay that way.
“In a perfect world, the new Wonderland would be the place for 21st century jobs,” he said. “There’s an opportunity to make this a transformative place with access to Logan Airport, public transportation and the beach.”
He said among the options the community would consider for the parcel is an entertainment complex with restaurants, shops, and office space, similar to Assembly Row.
Discussion of Wonderland’s future comes as the new owners of another well-known job center in the city, NECCO, develop plans for their property, located across the commuter rail line from the dog track.
Earlier this year, Framingham-based Atlantic Management Corp. and VMD Cos. of North Andover purchased NECCO, the 170-year-old candy company, and its 55-acre headquarters on American Legion Highway for $54.5 million. The new owners have said they plan to seek a zoning change to turn the former candy factory best known for Necco Wafers, Squirrel Nut Zippers and the Valentine Sweethearts, into a manufacturing hub for robotics.
“The Wonderland and Necco sites send a strong message to investors that we want to be the place for jobs.”