Racetrack daycare enters starting gate: Hastings Racecourse employees get first dibs

Naoibh O’Connor, Vancouver Courier

A new 44-space daycare–one of the community benefits that emerged out of the deal to install 600 slot machines at Hastings Racecourse–opens March 1.

The public benefits package from Hastings Entertainment Inc. was approved by city council in 2005.

The daycare, known as Hastings Park Childcare Centre, is being funded and built by Hastings Racecourse and will be owned by the City of Vancouver. Kiwassa Neighbourhood House will run the centre. It already operates five childcare centres in Hastings-Sunrise.

The track daycare will include a mix of spaces for infants and toddlers, and children ages three to five years. Before and after-school care for school-age children is also being considered.

Susan Hall-Ford, childcare programs manager for Kiwassa Neighbourhood House, said first priority for the daycare spaces goes to racetrack employees, while families in the surrounding community are next on the list.

The daycare is not a drop-off childcare centre for track visitors, explained Hall-Ford, mentioning erroneous blog posts that suggested it will serve gamblers. “That’s not the truth. There’s no validity to any of that. It’s specifically for the community and it’s not a drop-off site for people who are gambling… There’s just a lot of misconception in the community about the agreement with the City of Vancouver and around the purpose of the daycare being there.”

The daycare will operate from 4:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. seven days a week, but the early morning and weekend hours are only for backstretch racetrack workers, such as horsegroomers and trainers, who work odd hours….

When the new daycare opens in March most of the spots will already be filled.…

At any given time, there are typically 30 to 40 families on waitlists at each of the neighbourhood house’s daycare sites–a problem that exists across Vancouver.

“All of [our sites] have a significant waitlist and across the city there is a big shortage of childcare spaces for infant/toddler,” Hall-Ford said.