ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — If you've ever driven through St. Petersburg, you've probably passed by a few historic spots and didn’t even realize it.
Derby Lane Greyhound Racetrack is one of those places that is part of the city's rich history – and in 2020, it will celebrate its 95th year in business.
Greyhound racing originally took off in Emeryville, Calif, in 1919. By the early 1920s, the sport quickly raced over to Florida.
T.L. Weaver tapped into the greyhound racing business by default. Weaver, a lumber entrepreneur at the time, bought a plot of pineland in the early 1920s. He sold a portion of his land to a few local businessmen who made plans to open a greyhound track.
While the businessmen built out the track, they defaulted on the loan and ended up turning the incomplete racetrack over to Weaver.
Weaver put the finishing touches on Derby Lane and opened for business on Jan. 3, 1925.
By the 1990s, dog racing started to slow down. Animal advocacy groups started to raise awareness of how the canines are treated.
In 2015, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and GREY2K USA released a report that took a deeper look into the injuries and deaths of greyhounds that raced throughout the states.
The report stated there were more than 3,000 dogs that had broken legs, crushed skulls, broken backs, and paralysis – all caused by racing.
In the same study, the ASPCA reported 909 racing greyhounds died between 2008 to 2015.
In their finding, the group stated there were 27 cases of greyhound cruelty and neglect. The advocacy group reported the dogs were starved to death, denied veterinary care or endured poor track kennel conditions.
On Nov. 6, 2018, Floridians voted to end commercial dog racing. Now there are only a handful of states that race greyhounds, including Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Texas and West Virginia.
Derby Lane’s Future
Derby Lane’s last greyhound race will take place on Dec. 31, 2020. The dogs will be put up for adoption through Pets of America Tampa Bay, where they have a high adoption rate.
From the outside looking in, you might think Derby Lane is just about racing dogs. But if you walk around the 120 acres of land, you'll find there’s more to do.
If you’re into placing bets, you can try your luck with poker or bet on simulcast horse races like the Belmont Stakes, Triple Crown, Kentucky Derby, Thoroughbred and Harness racing. You can also wager on Jai alai – and place your bets on any day of the week.
And if you build up an appetite, Derby Lane also offers a hot buffet on Fridays and Saturdays.
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