fb-pixel Skip to main content

Even with no casino, Revere focuses on new uses for old racetracks

“We’re going to figure out the best solution for these properties,” Richard Fields, a principal owner of the city’s two closed racetracks, told members of a recent economic summit in Revere.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff/File 2013

REVERE — The Massachusetts Gaming Commission might have awarded the Greater Boston casino license to Steve Wynn in Everett, but the developer who sought to bring a billion-dollar gambling resort to Revere remains optimistic.

“We’re not going to go anywhere,” said Richard Fields, a principal owner of the city’s two closed racetracks — Suffolk Downs and Wonderland Greyhound Park — during remarks at the city’s second Economic Development Summit. “We’re going to sit here, and we’re going to work with you. We’re going to figure out the best solution for these properties.

“I believe in this city. I believe in the future of Revere, and I think Revere is poised to do unbelievable, terrific things.”

Advertisement



The Nov. 21 summit drew top local and state officials — including House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, the Winthrop Democrat who also represents Revere — along with dozens of private business owners and developers to the Showcase Cinemas on Route 1.

While the future of the two track sites remains uncertain, the summit was Revere’s time to showcase economic progress and new development possibilities. The state this year has allocated $25 million for a new commuter rail station at Wonderland; $9 million for a new pier at Revere Beach; and $15 million for a new State Police barracks on the beach, DeLeo said.

“It is my hope that these improvements will be followed by additional revitalization efforts across this city, as we look to bring out Revere’s full potential,” DeLeo said.

Those proposed projects follow $80 million in federal and state funds already invested to build a new parking garage at the Wonderland Blue Line MBTA station that includes a footbridge leading to Revere Beach.

Meanwhile, private developers are investing in projects that will bring luxury apartments to Waterfront Square on Revere Beach, affordable housing to Shirley Avenue, and senior housing to Broadway.

“We are open for business,” Mayor Dan Rizzo said, addressing the summit. “We are here to work with you.”

Revere’s focus on its economic future comes as the city makes a last-ditch effort to turn itself into a seaside gambling resort.

Advertisement



On Oct. 16, the city and a union representing 145 workers at Suffolk Downs filed suit in Suffolk Superior Court against the gambling commission. The lawsuit alleges the panel violated the state’s expanded gambling law by awarding a license to Wynn Resorts of Las Vegas to build a resort casino in Everett and “gave Wynn unequal [and better] treatment than other gaming applicants,’’ including the proposal by Mohegan Sun to build a casino on the Revere side of Suffolk Downs.

Even with the litigation looming, Revere is preparing for new possibilities at Suffolk Downs and Wonderland. “I know that good things are going to happen at both locations,” Rizzo said.

The 32-acre Wonderland park closed when the state implemented a ban on greyhound racing on Jan. 1, 2010. Suffolk Downs, which held its final live races last month, remains open for simulcasting but expects to close by the end of this year. The 170-acre site — which straddles the borders of Revere and East Boston — includes about 52 acres in Revere, according to the city.

Any future uses for the horse track won’t be decided until the lawsuit is resolved, said John Festa, the city’s economic development director.

“There are so many unknowns now at Suffolk Downs,” Festa said in an interview after the summit. “It’s a very, very large parcel, and we know whatever goes there will certainly involve the city of Boston. We have to work with what we can progress quickly on, and that’s Wonderland.”

Advertisement



The city hopes to start to develop a Wonderland master plan by the end of this year, Festa said.

The property, which has sat idle since its closing, is on Route 1A, directly across from the MBTA station. Current zoning allows for retail, office space, and other commercial uses.

“We’re looking for a strong commercial use there,” Festa said. “It could be that a mixed-use development is the best option . . . The mayor and I both see this as a very desirable property for developers.”


Kathy McCabe can be reached at katherine. mccabe @globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKMcCabe.