Wonderland Greyhound Park
Wonderland Greyhound Park was a greyhound racing track located in Revere, Massachusetts owned by the Westwood Group. It was constructed on the site of the former Wonderland Amusement Park. Wonderland opened on June 12, 1935 and formerly offered 361 performances during its 100-day, April to September racing period.
As a result of a state-wide ban on dog racing which took effect on January 1, 2010, the track offered only simulcast wagering, but completely closed its doors on August 19, 2010. The track laid off the remaining 75-80 workers and closed its doors after Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick vetoed a gaming bill that could have allowed the park to add slot machines.
With the end of its greyhound racing, Wonderland formed a partnership with nearby Suffolk Downs horse track to build a casino on the site, but this plan also allows the option of the track being redeveloped for commercial or mixed uses.
With the legalization of Parimutuel betting by the Massachusetts Legislature in 1934, the idea of Wonderland Greyhound Park was made a possibility. The track was constructed on the site of the former Wonderland Amusement Park in Revere, which had been converted from an amusement park to a bicycle track after the parks close in 1911.
The opening night of Wonderland Greyhound Park took place on June 12, 1935 and was attended by an estimated 5,000 people. Pansy Walker won the first-ever greyhound race in the park while $58,462 was wagered for the first evening. By July 21, after 17 races, the money wagered topped $100,000, never dropping below the figure for the duration of the park's 100 night inaugural season.
The Westwood Group, headed by restaurateur Charles Sarkis and insurer James Kelley purchased the track in 1977 from Boston businessman Joe Linsey; new management along with the 1978 omnibus racing bill were economically beneficial as Wonderland's offerings began to expand. Under the leadership of the Westwood Group, the park made a total of four handles of over 1 million dollars; they occurred on August 29, 1981 ($1,004,826), May 5, 1983 ($1,004,740), August 11, 1984 ($1,086,554) and April 30, 1988 ($1,025,928).
The best year for the track according to Sarkis was in 1991, but he claims that business started to taper off as full service casinos were built in Connecticut and Rhode Island, along with the lottery which started "nibbling at gamblers' available dollars".
Wonderland experienced legal issues when the City of Revere attempted to collect overdue taxes and utility bills. The track owed over two years' worth of back taxes and utility bills to the city, which threatened Wonderland with foreclosure if it failed to pay. A lien had been placed on the property in June 2007, and revocation hearings for its annual liquor and parking licenses were planned. The bill, totaling $752,301, was finally paid in a lump sum in October 2008. A similar situation also occurred in 1994, when Wonderland's owners owed over $1.5 million in back taxes.
Before the end of live greyhound racing, Wonderland Greyhound Park offered 361 performances during its 100-day, April to September racing season. Races on cold days were made possible through the use of over 7 miles (11 km) of underground piping that heated the racetrack. In addition, the park featured year round simulcast which allowed patrons to bet on races at other tracks.
Voters of the commonwealth passed the Massachusetts Greyhound Protection Act through a referendum held on November 4, 2008 which banned greyhound racing statewide as of January 1, 2010. As a result, live races ended at the park on September 18, 2009.
Casino gambling is currently against the law in Massachusetts and governor Deval Patrick's idea of introducing it to the state failed to make it through the legislature in 2007. Cited as the key to keep Wonderland open, casino gambling was proposed for the site. On August 13, 2008, a nearly two-year discussion ended with Richard Fields, the principal owner of the Suffolk Downs horse track in East Boston, Massachusetts. A partnership with Wonderland was formed which strengthened their position to build a casino at Suffolk Downs. Suffolk Downs would then share the license with Wonderland. The deal allows Suffolk Downs to buy Wonderland, which it would then redevelop for commercial or mixed uses.
Massachusetts House Speaker Salvatore Dimasi, however, an opponent of casinos, said through an aide that he has not changed his opinion and would presumably urge the Massachusetts legislature to not allow casino gambling in the state. In late 2008, the Patrick administration announced that it was not focused on slots at the tracks or casinos, but that Patrick was "concerned about any job losses from any companies" and pledged to begin planning ways to assist or retrain track workers. By mid-2010, the administration announced that it would allow three full casino resort licenses to non-racetrack locations and in a last minute compromise, added a provision for one slot parlor that a racetrack could acquire through competitive bidding. When the house and senate proposed a bill with two slot parlors, Patrick vetoed it as he previously stated that he would only accept one parlor. As a result of the casino bill not passing, the owners found the continued operation of the park offering only simulcast racing to be uneconomical. Wonderland Greyhound Park closed its doors on August 19, 2010, laying off the remaining 75-80 workers.
- "Wonderland History". Wonderland Greyhound Park. Retrieved November 6, 2008.[dead link]
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