Woodbine to Sell Hastings Park

Hastings Park is for sale. The Vancouver racetrack that was purchased by Woodbine Entertainment Group in 2002 apparently isn't performing as well as its parent company had hoped, even though attendance and wagering have increased since it changed hands.

"It has become apparent to Woodbine Entertainment that we will not be able to operate and develop Hastings Racecourse to the standards originally anticipated when we acquired Hastings," David Willmot, president and CEO of WEG, said in a release.

Willmot is refusing requests for interviews beyond his comments in the release and statements made to the Vancouver Sun in its Feb. 25 edition. He told that publication, "we did not purchase Hastings to operate it on a status-quo basis."

Part of the problem stems from Hastings' inability to get approval for slot machines. There has been progress--in July the Vancouver city council lifted a citywide ban on the machines--but in December the council tabled until June of 2004 the final ruling on whether or not the track could install them. A nearby Standardbred track, Fraser Downs, did get slots, and they could be operational by April. Fraser Downs is located in Surrey, and thus a different city council ruled on that matter.

Phil Heard, president of Hastings Entertainment, has been the track's leader in the effort to get slots. He has also been working on the Woodbine/Hastings long term plan that includes development of seven teletheaters in the greater Vancouver area using the track's seven off-track wagering licenses.

According to Willmot in 2002, the potential for teletheaters was one of the leading factors in the decision to purchase Hastings. To date, no new teletheaters have opened in the area.