In my first job out of college, almost 30 years ago, I looked out the press box window every day at Suffolk Downs as the horses rounded the first turn, right in the shadow of the homes up on the hill at Orient Heights. This past weekend, for the first time, I got a glimpse of the track from the opposite direction, through the eyes of the folks who live on Waldemar Avenue in East Boston, who for years have listened to the clang of the starting gate and the pounding of hooves as part of their everyday lives.
Suffolk Downs sits on land in East Boston and Revere, and today voters in both communities will decide whether they'd like to have a resort casino on the 163-acre property at Suffolk Downs. I spent time Saturday talking to voters on Waldemar Ave., Faywood Ave. and Orient Ave., asking them to go to the polls today to support the resort casino plan for Suffolk Downs, which will bring thousands of jobs and tens of millions in revenue to Boston and Revere, as well as the Commonwealth. I really didn't know what to expect. Were they tired of looking at a racetrack, and ready to look out at a shopping mall? With the City of Boston also choosing a Mayor today, were they simply tired of election season? Neither could have been further from the truth. The folks I talked to love their racetrack, and love what it could become.
I do, as they say, have a horse in the race. I became a passionate fan of horse racing during my four years working at the track, but I also became a lifelong fan of Suffolk Downs. We've been fortunate at CTP to be the track's marketing partner for the past 20 years, and have seen first-hand that the racetrack isn't merely a place to work, or to bet on a horse; it's a culture, a society, a close-knit group of the hardest-working men and women I've ever met. From trainers to maintenance workers, grooms to mutuel clerks, thousands have earned a living over the past 78 years at the place they affectionately call "the East Boston oval." Some drive from as far as New Hampshire and Rhode Island seven days a week, but most live in East Boston and Revere. And Chelsea, Everett, Winthrop and Lynn.
I hope, for the sake of all those people who earn a living at Suffolk Downs, and especially for those who have proudly called Suffolk Downs their neighbor since 1935, that the voters in East Boston and Revere say Yes to what could be a spectacular rebirth at Suffolk Downs.