The Berkeley-Albany horse-racing track Golden Gate Fields, the last full-time horse-race track in Northern California, ran its last race ever on Sunday as the facility is now closed permanently. And no one has any idea what will happen next to those 140 acres.

Sunday was the end of an era, not just for the East Bay racetrack Golden Gate Fields, but for all of Northern California. That’s because Sunday was the last-ever day of horse racing at Golden Gate Fields according to KGO, ending operations at the last full-time horse racing track in NorCal after 83 years. Golden Gate Fields was actually supposed to close last fall, but managed to squeak out eight more months past its original closure date, though those months were still marred by horse deaths for which the facility has unfortunately has long been known.  

The last race was at 5:37 pm Sunday, per KPIX

People may get all “doom loopy” about this, but the reality is that horse racing has suffered a massive decline in popularity, and frankly is nowhere near as popular a pastime as it was in granddad’s day. Plus, the sport requires a great deal of costly real estate (the Golden Gate Fields property is 140 acres). That's a lot of maintenance for an attraction that is substantially less economically feasible than it was in decades past.

“There were days where we had thousands [of people here]," Golden Gate Fields vice president and general manager David Duggan told KPIX. “Dollar days we used to run were very, very, very popular. After the pandemic, unfortunately, it was very difficult to get that going again."

Duggan additionally told KGO that “the company decided to consolidate efforts in Southern California at Santa Anita Park," and, "It wasn't an easy decision but the right decision." He refers to a Canadian company called the Stronach Group that owns multiple tracks.

Yes, thousands of people showed up to Golden Gate Fields for its final day of operations. But as the Bay Area News Group reports, so did the animal rights protesters, since this track has such a poor track record for horse safety. (Of course, these are the same protesters who prevented people from getting COVID vaccines when the track was a vaccination facility).

The News Group reports there were 20 horse deaths at the track in the past year, seven in 2024, and two in the past month.

The majority of these horse deaths have been race-related injuries that resulted in euthanasia.

“Golden Gate Fields, along with other horse racing tracks, profit immensely — by the billions — off gambling addictions,” protester Rocky Chau told the News Group. “And even worse, countless amounts of horses are systematically exploited, separated from their families and eventually killed if they’re found to not profit god-awful places like Golden Gate Fields.”

But Berkeleyside considers another more human angle, which is the fate of the Golden Gate Fields workforce. A reported 98% of these workers are immigrants from Mexico, Central America, and South America, and many of them live on-site in tack rooms. Berkeleyside estimated 370 workers lived there when a late 2020 COVID outbreak hit, though there are apparently about 100 fewer of them now. And of course, it will be zero people fairly soon.

And as for that future of Golden Gate Fields and its 140 acres? No one knows yet. KPIX notes there is a good possibility it will be housing. But as KGO points out, “Whatever is developed here will require approval from [Berkeley and Albany], including voters in Albany.”

Related: 80-Year-Old Racetrack Golden Gate Fields to Close Permanently This Fall [SFNews]

Image: Golden Gate Fields Racetrack via Yelp