Monday, June 25, 2007

Take the Train to Tampa Downs

I've noticed a lot of you find my blog when you search for history of race tracks in Florida. So for you, here's a little something I learned this weekend.

I was at the library, reeling through microfilm of old Tampa newspapers, reading about legal issues that shut down local horse and dog tracks in the 1920s (gambling, you know). And I noticed the ads the track ran on the bottom right hand corner of the sports page each day there was racing. These were attractive ads, with dynamic graphics of horses running and fashionable women, but what caught my eye were the directions for getting to get to the track. Tampa Downs (which became Sunshine Park, and now, Tampa Bay Downs) is not completely on the beaten path here, and I had wondered why people would venture so far out from the city to go to the races. But it seems that race fans could catch a special Seaboard train from Tampa'a Union Station to the track, or one of the Blue Line buses that ran every hour or two. It's small potatoes compared to the train from New York's Penn Station to Belmont Park, but on a Friday in 1927, 3,000 fans reportedly showed up to watch the ponies.

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