Is the Suffolk Downs facility in decent shape? When it is in good shape, is it an attractive, nicely-laid out plant? If racing were to be revitalized in the Boston area, is Suffolk the most logical place? Or is the location not optimal? Has the property become SO valuable for commercial development that it doesn't make good business sense to try to use that land?
Sorry...I know, too many questions, but I'm not at all familiar with the Boston area.
My maternal grandparents lived less than a mile from the track, one subway stop away, so I know the area well. The logicality and optimality (if that's a word; spellcheck is red-lining it) are indisputable. The track sits right on the subway line and the tunnel from the major highways empties right onto Rt. 1A and a track entrance. The location could hardly be better, but that's why the property is so valuable. The layout of the plant was functional in 1935 but is not for 2017. The best thing to do would be total renovation, but that wasn't going to happen without slots, and now the property belongs to a developer that has gone on record as wanting nothing to do with operating a racetrack, so the location and condition of Suffolk Downs are moot points now. There are people in what is now the former ownership group who want to preserve a portion of the old plant or perhaps build a small new building for off-track betting once the new owners decide what they want to do with the land and have all the necessary permits and contracts in place.
It is difficult for outsiders to understand the attachment people have for Suffolk Downs. The racing product has never had the greatest reputation and the track's history is replete with scandal. It's neither scenic nor in a scenic location, despite its proximity to the coast. It has been run by owners and ownership groups that have either been wealthy but crass or well-meaning but cheap or underfinanced. Concessions are basic and the people who staff the food counters and betting windows are gruff to surly, although if you have gray hair, the ladies serving the hot dogs and the cold Bud will greet you with a smiling "Whad'll ya have, sweethaht?" There's never been a well-thought-out or well-laid-out location in the whole building to watch simulcasts. Yet there are people involved with its operation, and people who go there regularly even when there's little live racing scheduled, who want it to survive and still see a sleeping giant rather than a decrepit relic when they walk through its doors. Tim Ritvo ought to know -- he was a jockey there in the '70s, when yours truly, tagging along with my grandfather, made my first bet and saw my first race there.
This is why Suffolk Downs -- or at least the Suffolk Downs concept and spirit -- refuses to die. But I am realistic enough to know in my heart that if racing is to survive, it won't be at the current location and almost certainly won't be in Boston itself. Steve Wynn's impending full-service casino in nearby Everett assures that. And with two horsemen's groups with incompatible visions, not to mention Massachusetts' frustrating and often logic-defying politics, it's hard to see the Stronach Group's interest leading anywhere.
Here is reality: Massachusetts has twelve days of thoroughbred racing remaining, spread over the next two summers. A seamless transition to a new track in a new location is improbable given current conditions. Once Suffolk is physically gone and no racing is scheduled anywhere in or near the city, it will be all the more difficult to maintain interest in the sport and the dream will finally die.