New horse racing track in Langley proposed to replace Hastings Racecourse and Fraser Downs

Jul 28 2021, 12:38 am

Could a new modern, standard-size horse racing venue in Langley Township replace Hastings Racecourse in Vancouver and Fraser Downs in Surrey?

This very idea is currently being seriously floated by the Township of Langley for a significant city-owned parcel of land at 8020 216 Street — the northeast corner of the intersection of 216 Street and University Drive, right next to the Trans-Canada Highway’s 216 Street interchange.

“The Township of Langley is in the early stages of exploring the idea of a new horse racing facility in our community,” Township of Langley Mayor Jack Froese told Daily Hive Urbanized.

“Langley has a long and rich history in the equine industry, and while the facility concept seems to be a good fit, a lot of work and stakeholder engagement needs to be done as next steps.”

The proposed undeveloped location on agricultural land reserve includes a 32-acre lot currently occupied by Sunny Riding Stables. Another adjacent property to the north within the corner is roughly 20 acres and vacant.

8020 216 Street Langley Township

Proposed site of a new racecourse and casino attraction at 8020 216 Street, Langley Township. (Google Maps)

8020 216 Street Langley Township

Proposed site of a new racecourse and casino attraction at 8020 216 Street, Langley Township. (Google Maps)

8020 216 Street Langley Township

Proposed site of a new racecourse and casino attraction at 8020 216 Street, Langley Township. (Google Maps)

No detailed proposal has been established, but early concepts outline the potential for a new one-mile, all-weather racetrack and training centre, a teletheatre (racebook), and a casino. This could be pursued as an economic development project in partnership with the Kwantlen First Nation.

The municipal government has suggested such a facility in the “Horse Capital of BC” could be feasible to replace Metro Vancouver’s two existing racetracks at Hastings Racecourse and Fraser Downs, which respectively offer thoroughbred and standardbred racing.

City officials have begun consultation with the provincial government, BC Lottery Corporation (BCLC), British Columbia Horse Racing Industry Management Committee, and Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, which operates both Hastings Racecourse and Fraser Downs at Elements Casino.

BCLC was unable to provide a comment to Daily Hive Urbanized on the idea, but redirected the inquiry to the BC Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, which stated that the provincial government is “aware of the Township of Langleyā€™s interest in relocating Fraser Downs and Hastings racetracks to Langley and in hosting a casino, community gaming centre or teletheatre.” But they added the province is not the regulator for where these facilities can be located.

hastings racecourse

Hastings Racecourse at Hastings Park in Vancouver. (Great Canadian Gaming Corporation)

Brian Butters, interim chair of the BCHRIMC, told Daily Hive Urbanized in an interview that his organization only became aware of the concept over the last few weeks.

He says they have not had any direct discussions with the municipality at this early stage, but from the outset, he says it is an “interesting concept” worthy of consideration.

“If they are proposing a one-mile track and an all-weather facility, then clearly that is the kind of facility that would make a lot of sense in British Columbia, both for the thoroughbreds racing at Hastings Racecourse and the standardbreds currently racing during the normal season at Fraser Downs. It’s exciting to hear the concept of a one-mile track; it is the industry standard for a racetrack,” said Butters.

The Hastings track is 5/8ths of a mile, which leads to some very tight turns as the horses make their way around the track, he says. A full mile-long track has fewer sharp angles, which makes it easier on the horses to do their running.

Hastings Racecourse, of course, is a historic venue that first opened in 1889, and it defines much of the local horse racing sport and community.

Great Canadian completed a $40 million renovation and expansion of the facility in 2008 that included a new 42,000 sq ft casino, just below the grandstands, with 600 slots.

hastings racecourse

Hastings Racecourse at Hastings Park in Vancouver. (Great Canadian Gaming Corporation)

In early 2020, the City of Vancouver renewed Great Canadian’s lease for the racecourse and casino, which occupies roughly one-fifth of Hastings Park’s 160 acres. This provides a new five-year lease extension, with a five-year option through the end of this decade.

According to 2017 records, the City of Vancouver saw $9.87 million in its share of casino operation revenues within its jurisdiction, located at Parq Casino/Edgewater Casino and Hastings Racecourse. As well, during the same year, the racecourse also provided $1.67 million in rent and $164,000 in improvements to Hastings Park.

The municipal government and the Pacific National Exhibition have long-term plans to replace the aging barns at the eastern end of the racecourse footprint with additional green space, a daylighted stream, and a portion of Playland’s planned expansion.

The existing barns would be replaced by about 300 double-decker barns, and the racecourse infield would be repurposed with surface vehicle parking for about 1,100 vehicles, but set below the grade of the racetrack to maintain views and reduce noise impact.

Hastings Park-PNE master plan

Hastings Park-PNE master plan. (City of Vancouver)

Fraser Downs, opened in 1975, is also a relatively small track at 5/8ths of a mile. It underwent a $40 million renewal in 2004 that added a 400-slot casino and retrofitted the racing spectator facilities, and another renovation with $11 million worth of work was completed in 2015, adding new entertainment space, dining options, and more slots.

Elements Casino Surrey, the formal name of Fraser Downs, leases 48 acres of the 138-acre Cloverdale Fairgrounds for its operations.

Butters says about 40% of the racing community’s net income comes from the slots in the casinos of both Hastings Racecourse and Fraser Downs.

elements casino surrey

Fraser Downs at Elements Casino Surrey at the Cloverdale Fairgrounds. (Great Canadian Gaming Corporation)

elements casino surrey slot machines

Slot machines at Elements Casino Surrey/Fraser Downs. (Great Canadian Gaming Corporation)

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

+ News
+ Development
+ Offside
+ Urbanized