You know how sometimes you take photos that don’t really make a whole lot of sense, but you think to yourself, someday I’ll have a use for those photos.
Well that day has come!
Covid-19 hits Elements Casino in Cloverdale
As part of the British Columbia government restrictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus, Elements Casino, including horse racing, was shut down in the middle of March.
It’s sad that a lot of people are out of work and hurting financially. Many of the Elements Casino staff would be eligible for employment insurance or various wage subsidy programs available to Canadians.
The horse trainers and owners are another story. If they’re not racing, they’re not making money. Many of them would be eligible for the CERB for self employed people, but that program ends at the end of September. And $2,000 a month doesn’t go that far when you have rent or a mortgage in the Greater Vancouver Area. Not only do horse people have to feed themselves, but they also have a barn full of hungry horses. Let’s not even get started on the other bills that come with horse ownership.
Some racetracks in other countries, and even other parts of Canada, are back with horse racing, though it might be without live fans in attendance.
As of August, 2020, there has been no announcement when the Standardbred horse racing will start up again in Cloverdale.
Empty parking lot is blocked
I drive past the Cloverdale Fairgrounds pretty much every day and I’ve noticed that access to the parking lots surrounding the casino have been blocked off so cars can’t drive in from 60th Avenue.
Yeah, there’s this big empty parking lot just sitting there.
Sometimes I drive through the fairgrounds when traffic is backed up on 60th Avenue. There’s a lane that runs alongside the racetrack and comes out on the backside, a couple of blocks away. Due to the fairgrounds entrances on 60th Avenue being barricaded, I can’t get into the parking lot. Even if I could, the gate is pulled shut to the other end of the fairgrounds where the truck museum, community hall, ice rink, and curling rink are located.
Driveway access is blocked. Goodbye to my short cut.
At least with the schools closed, I haven’t seen a traffic jam here in months.
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve spent time at Greenaway Park, located on a few acres beside the Cloverdale fairgrounds.
An outdoor swimming pool was installed in Greenaway Park around 1970. I hated taking swimming lessons at Greenaway Pool. That pool is really cold. I swore dump trucks full of ice cubes backed up there every morning and unloaded them into the pool.
During the summer months when I was a kid, the City of Surrey hired recreational staff that led free summertime programs and games in Greenaway Park. Besides a pool and playground, there’s a tennis court and pickleball courts. The free rec programs for kids ended decades ago.
There’s a small parking lot in Greenaway, with room for about 25 cars. On hot summer days, the Cloverdale Fairgrounds parking lot has always been used as overflow parking for Greenaway. People park in the corner of the lot closest to Greenaway and walk over.
I’ve also seen this go vice versa, especially in November when there’s a big horse racing day, BC stakes races. The parking lot at Elements Casino is packed. Patrons park in Greenaway and walk over to the casino.
Check out these recent photos of the Greenaway Park lot. The pool is straight ahead where that blue wall is. People are swimming and all the pickleball courts are occupied. It doesn’t take long for the lot to get packed with cars!
Now look next door at the empty parking lot in Elements Casino.
Why is the parking lot access blocked off?
At first I didn’t didn’t give much thought about the fairgrounds parking lot being blocked. Until I read about someone who tried to drive in to the lot and park there for awhile to watch the horses.
They were turned away by security.
Well, that doesn’t seem very nice. What does it hurt if people park in an empty parking lot of a currently closed business? It just seems downright mean spirited to block access.
After being in contact with a person at the City of Surrey who manages the city leases, I found out that Elements Casino lease does include the parking lot. Bottom line they can do whatever they want with it, including keeping out unsavory characters like me who just want to park near the fence and look at the horses.
The casino’s manager was also in contact with me to say the parking lot is closed off due to security for the building. It’s easier for the security staff to see who is coming and going on the property and to avoid break ins or people dumping garbage on the lot.
Garbage in, garbage out
The garbage thing reminds me of being at the City of Surrey council meeting 20 years ago for the go-ahead on the casino. One of the residents who was speaking against the casino expansion said there was going to be lots of garbage and kids walking home from school would trip over it. Just about everyone laughed at him. Most parents teach their kids to look our where they’re walking.
I have been in the casino’s parking lot many times, often walking my dogs over to the fence to watch the horses. Surprisingly, there is not much garbage littered on the grounds.
Surprising – because there are no garbage cans in the parking lot! And yes, I know this because, well, walking dogs, I’m almost always picking up after them. I’ve walked the Fraser Downs/Elements Casino parking lot enough times holding on to a bag of dog shit to know there are no garbage cans in the parking lot. I have to walk right up to the building where there are garbage cans to dispose of it.
Elements Casino Security
Since the casino closed, I’ve occasionally seen the security guards near the front of the building when I’m driving past.
I decided to put to the test whether or not security at Elements Casino would usher me away if I’m walking around in their lot, so I made a couple of test runs. Or I should say walks.
I managed to grab the last parking spot in Greenaway Park for one of those runs. Another time, there were about 4 or 5 empty parking spaces at Greenaway.
One of those times I spotted security guards in front of the casino but they didn’t approach me. Not too many people challenge me when I’m walking a big dog anyway.
Another day I walked over to the fence to watch the horses. Then I walked past the building to the other end of the parking lot. I wanted to find out if the gate is padlocked, or just closed.
The answer is – ta da! – padlocked.
Anyway, when I walked past the front of the building there were no security guards around. However there is a cigarette ashtray bin that is full. Hundreds of butts in there. So either security are heavy smokers or that trash can hasn’t been emptied since the casino closed down five months ago.
Let’s just see how effective security is in the parking lot at Fraser Downs/Elements Casino over the years.
I’m going to start with something that really bothers me.
There’s an emergency access gate to the racetrack that is clearly marked “No Parking”. If a driver on the track is in an accident in front of the grandstand, the ambulance and fire trucks can access through this gate to provide assistance.
Oh look. Here’s a moron – who apparently can’t read English – parking in front of the emergency gate.
Can you believe this? If there had been an accident, emergency crews would have to access the track from the barn area, delaying them by a couple more minutes to provide assistance to an injured driver.
Why did the casino security allow this person to park here blocking off emergency access?
Security can’t be everywhere at once, so they might have missed the couple of minutes it took for the moron to park and exit the car, but certainly security could have been quick on the draw about calling a tow truck. Instead, casino security took the path of least resistance and did nothing.
Why even bother putting up a “no parking” sign if security refuses to enforce it?
Am I the only one in attendance that day who cares about the safety of the athletes on the racetrack?
Check out all these drivers who create their own parking spaces alongside medians instead of inbetween the lines. Casino security obviously doesn’t care.
Now check out that white car at the back of the lot.
This was really weird. There are a lot of empty parking spots on this day, so someone creating his own parking spot really stands out.
Well, maybe to me, because I’m kind of observant. Obviously it doesn’t stand out to the casino security or they would have moved him along. Or maybe security just doesn’t care is the more likely scenario.
So the man (yes, I know it was a man because he stepped out of his car twice) creates his own parking spot, and has his car’s engine running the whole time I was there.
In the City of Surrey, there is a bylaw about idling your car for more than 3 minutes in a 60 minute period. Emergency vehicles exempt.
I was standing at the fence watching a couple of horse races, so I was there for close to half an hour, and that car was running the whole time. It is unknown how long the car idled before I arrived, or after I left.
Now, you’d think that people who work in security would have a higher level of responsibility to uphold the law than other citizens. Apparently not if you work security at Elements Casino. Ironic, isn’t it? On a property that is owned by the City of Surrey, the lessee is doing nothing about someone violating a City bylaw.
My opinion is blocking off access to the parking lot is mean-spirited and not community minded. Many people who want to use Greenaway Park are either turned away or walking a fair distance due to lack of nearby street parking.
Elements Casino is not winning friends in the community who can’t find a parking spot – that’s for sure!
And it seems a shame because this big parking lot is sitting empty and the people who want to use it are probably not troublemakers.
I just don’t buy the whole “trying to make things easier for the security guards” thing.
When it comes to the parking lot, casino security has proven themselves to be useless. Hopefully they do a better job when it comes to security inside the building. Maybe right now is the time for the security guards to get some practice in. Take down the barricades and allow people to park. The majority of the people who want to park here aren’t out to cause trouble. For the few that are, well obviously the Elements Casino security department can use the extra training on parking lot patrol. Without customers inside the casino, this is a great time for them to upgrade their skills in parking lot control.
It would be nice to see the City of Surrey renegotiate the lease with Elements Casino and not include parking spots in the southeast corner closest to Greenaway Park. Or at least specify in the lease that the parking lot can not be blocked off for the public access. That way it can still be used as overflow parking for people who want to enjoy the park.
My opinion is an empty parking could be used in a friendly way without alienating the community by blocking access to locals.
Way to go, Elements Casino, when it comes to winning friends in Cloverdale. Sometimes it’s better to be a good neighbor instead of being mean and petty and alienating the locals.