Bay Meadows closure could dismantle social network

Every morning of the racing season, 74-year-old Dorcas McCarthy, of Pacifica, picks up a friend and heads to the Bay Meadows Race Track.

She has coffee and lunch there, chats with old friends, bets $2 on the horses and goes home. The routine is repeated the next day.

“It’s something to do to break my day up, since my husband died,” she said. “If they close this place, I’m going to have to find something else to do — I don’t know what. I’ll miss it, that’s for sure.”

McCarthy counts among hundreds of older adults who will have to find other activities if the 74-year-old racetrack is shut down after August as planned. The historic track will be transformed into 750,000 square feet of commercial space, 100,000 square feet of retail and 1,067 housing units.

Racetrack employees estimated that more than half of their regular customers are senior citizens who are drawn to the track not only for betting, but also for the social scene and support network it provides.

As it stands, the track is a de facto senior center for many of the track’s regular customers, said Cowboy Perron, who works at one of the track’s restaurants. He said they look out for one another and notice when someone doesn’t come that day. Many bring their own lunch and spend most of their time sitting at tables, drinking coffee and talking to friends.

“They are all worried,” Perron said. “They all say, what are we going to do? Where are we going to go? They’ve been coming here forever.”

After Bay Meadows closes, the nearby San Mateo County Event Center plans to open a satellite wagering room where race fans could watch and bet on races on other tracks. However, that facility will be several blocks farther from the train station that brings many older customers to Bay Meadows — a long trek for some older adults.

Chris Carpenter, the event center’s general manager, said the county will meet with Caltrain and SamTrans to discuss whether a shuttle might be appropriate.

Some seniors said they’ll drive over the Bay Bridge to go to the other Bay Area racetrack, Golden Gate Fields near Richmond, though they grumbled about the bridge toll and the longer commute.

When asked where he’ll go when Bay Meadows closes, 80-year-old John Cubit shrugged and smiled widely.

“Reno, I guess,” he said, eliciting a roar of laughter from his friends at the table.

kworth@examiner.com  

Just Posted

California Highway Patrol officers watch as Caltrans workers remove barricades from homeless camp sites as residents are forced to relocate from a parking lot underneath Interstate 80 on Monday, May 17, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
San Francisco’s broken promise to resolve homeless encampments

‘There is an idea that The City is leading with services, and they are not’

The Department of Building Inspection, at 49 South Van Ness Ave., has been mired in scandal since since its creation by voter referendum under Proposition G in 1994. (Courtesy SF.gov)
The Department of Building Inspection, at 49 South Van Ness Ave., has been mired in scandal since its creation by voter referendum under Proposition G in 1994. (Courtesy SF.gov)
Whistleblowing hasn’t worked at San Francisco’s Department of Building Inspection

DBI inspectors say their boss kept them off connected builders’ projects

FILE — Mort Sahl on Nov. 10, 1967. Sahl, who confronted Eisenhower-era cultural complacency with acid stage monologues, delivering biting social commentary in the guise of a stand-up comedian and thus changing the nature of both stand-up comedy and social commentary, died on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, at his home in Mill Valley, Calif., near San Francisco. He was 94. (Don Hogan Charles/The New York Times)
Legendary local comedian dies at 94

By Bruce Weber NYTimes News Service Mort Sahl, who confronted Eisenhower-era cultural… Continue reading

Sharon Van Etten (left) reached out to Angel Olsen about working on a song and they ended up releasing “Like I Used To,” which may be performed at Outside Lands. (Photo by Dana Trippe)
Performers’ emotions are high as Outside Lands returns to San Francisco

Festival features Sharon Van Etten and Boy Scouts alongside The Strokes, Lizzo and Tame Impala

Most Read