Is racing drawing a younger crowd to Hastings Park, or cheap grog?
And they’re off! Those words have been echoing across Hastings Racecourse since 1889. A Vancouver institution, this cornerstone of the Hasting-Sunrise community not only provides top-notch entertainment, it gives back—especially to those in the Downtown Eastside.
I was there this past weekend with a group of friends to enjoy Friday Night Live, which is running until September 17th. With a live DJ, drink specials, and a themed buffet in Silks, if you’re looking for a great night out make sure you head to Hastings before summer is over.
We had a group of about ten people and had no problem getting a large table down in the beer garden area that could accommodate everyone. As people came and went all evening, it’s not necessary to rush down to ensure your spot. The first race is at 7pm, and it was about 11:30pm when we left after the 8th race.
The racecourse employees are very understanding of betting neophytes, such as me, so I never felt awkward about going up the window and asking for help placing my bet. And you can bet as much, or as little, as you’re comfortable with. For pure entertainment value, it’s a winner.
And of course there’s nothing better than when your horse comes in! I picked the winner for two of the races, and seeing those gorgeous animals thunder down the homestretch was exhilarating. Out of the ten of us, only two had been to the races before, but I’m now sure that we’ll be back.
Many of the proceeds from the racecourse get pumped back into the community. They are in the process of building a permanent childcare facility in the Hastings-Sunrise area, which should be completed in 2011, and will provide subsidized spaces for 44 children of racecourse workers and local residents.
The racecourse also contributes to the Hastings Park Improvement Fund, to create more green spaces in Vancouver, and on non-race days, people are invited to enjoy the track infield with their families. Hastings also has funds earmarked for a Learning Centre, which provides their employees with additional skills training. And their innovative Groom School provides hands on experience and training to those wanting to work with thoroughbred horses. Participants learn the skills necessary for an entry-level groom position, and priority for space in the program is given to residents of the Downtown Eastside.
Hastings also has a Local Hire program that actively recruits local residents, again with preference given to those living in the Hastings-Sunrise or Downtown Eastside areas. They have also committed to having racecourse improvements done by Bladerunners, which is a program that assists local at-risk-youth find employment in the construction industry. And their Community Legacy Fund will donate $2 million over the next 20 years to try and alleviate some of the problems in the Hastings area.
Local community groups can also apply to use the racecourse for their own fundraising initiatives, during up to eight Community Days at the track. In the past, groups have been able to raise upwards of $10,000 in one day.
So the next time you’re stumped on how to spend a Friday night, call some friends and head to the track. You’ll not only have fun, you’ll be supporting an organization that gives back to the community in which it operates.
- post by Kerri