Vancouver reassures that the plan to transform Hasting Parks into a greener destination suitable for an all-season park to offer culture, sport, and recreation services is still in the works. The property is Vancouver’s second-largest park and it is the home of Hastings Park Racetrack, Pacific Coliseum, Iron Workers Memorial Bridge, the PNE grounds, and Burnaby residential area.
The project is called Hastings Park Master Plan and it was approved by the city council a decade ago in December 2021. However, the transformation plan has stumbled upon plenty of obstacles, and its initiatives to redevelop the horse racing track, the public green areas, and the facilities have mostly been left unrealized.
The plan is Still On
PNE president Shelley Frost recently stated that the plan has endured many hurdles on its way after its official approval back in 2010. She explained that as many as 15 feasibility studies were conducted in arborists, infrastructure, archaeological and geotechnical, in order to fully assess everything about the location and now, she said that it is coming into fruition.
Patricia Barnes who was in charge of the Hastings North Business Improvement Association for more than 20 years, stated that the PNE has been a subject of lengthy debates in the region. However, according to her, the city could not proceed with the master plan since there were more important issues at stake such as housing, homelessness, drug overdoses, and then the unprecedented situation has also taken its toll on the project and even endangered some of the locations from the park.
Sports have always been a major aspect of the park, and after the approval of the master plan a decade ago, the Empire Field was converted into a track, sports fields, and washrooms for community use. The Coliseum was also a home for many sporting events, and in more recent times it was used for concerts, monster trucks, rallies, trade shows, and film production, but now the PNE is looking for a potential tenant.
Hastings Park is also the home of Hastings Racecourse, which is operated by Great Canadian Gaming Corporation. A spokesperson for the gaming company, Chuck Keeling acknowledged that the horse racing industry has been severely struck by the unprecedented situation, and the focus of the company was to support the recovery of the sport.
However, uncertainty continues to grow in B.C. about the future of the live harness industry in the region. Greg Douglas, who was in charge of PR for the race track for 16 years, said that there have been some questions about the future of the sport in the province long before the occurrence of the unprecedented situation and now the acquisition of Great Canadian Gaming Corp. enables even more uncertainty.
Hastings Racecourse has been struggling with finances for quite some time now, as its problems date back even before the dangerous virus. Owner and trainer Glenn Todd has found a way to save the current 2021 live racing season at the track. Mr. Todd has offered an interest-free loan to the track worth millions of dollars, as a way of financing purses and allowing the season to resume.
Proposal for a New Track
Not long ago, the Township of Langley has come up with a solution to the struggling horse racing industry in the region. The township has submitted a letter to the BC Horse Racing Industry Management Committee, proposing to replace Hasting Racecourse and Fraser Downs with a brand-new horse racing oval at North East corner of 216 Street and 80 Avenue. However, we are yet to hear more on the matter.
Source: Fumano, Dan “Back to the future at Hastings Park: City looks to transform site while embracing past”, Vancouver Sun, August 20, 2021