The moment it comes into view, you'll stop and stare: a giant bronze Pegasus battling a snarling dragon, rising 11 stories from the ground at the entrance to the Village at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach. With wings outstretched and one foot poised above the dragon's snout, the massive sculpture towers over a new, dome-shaped entertainment center.
Weighing in at more than 400 tons, a year in the making, and costing millions, this statue is a symbol of the evolution of South Florida's longtime racetrack and casino.
The racetrack originally opened in 1939. At the time, it was just that: a racetrack that on its opening day attracted 18,000 visitors. Three-quarters of a century later, the complex has become a thriving village of shops and restaurants that employs more than 2,000 people and welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.
Much of that evolution from racing track to family-friendly entertainment destination is thanks to billionaire owner Frank Stronach, who purchased Gulfstream Park — and the surrounding property — in 2011. Now under the management of the Frank Stronach Group, the entire property has seen vast change in the past few years.
Today, the open-air mall includes home stores, art galleries, a bowling alley, outdoor cafés and nightclubs, fashion boutiques, and health and beauty services.
It's the food scene, though, that has seen the most significant evolution. What was once nothing more than a handful of chain restaurants is now an array of dining options. Adults can wet their whistles at more than ten happy hours starting as early as 3 p.m. The late-night crowd can dance the night away at Martini Bar's free bachata class on Wednesday or unwind at Club Fate. Sports fans can watch their favorite teams and enjoy a large selection of draft beer at Yard House or take down a gourmet burger at Rok:Brgr.
More recent additions include Stronach's own forward-thinking establishments, Adena Grill & Wine Bar and Frankey's Sports Bar. They join two longtime establishments at Gulfstream Park proper — Ten Palms and Christine Lee's — which open to the public during racing season and provide patrons with a panoramic view of the racetrack below.
And then, of course, there's the single most striking addition in recent years: that 110-foot-tall, 473-ton bronze Pegasus sculpture at the entrance.
For Stronach, the giant bronze feature represents strength, and the ongoing battle between good and evil. The statue itself is perched atop a massive dome dubbed Pegasus Park, a 110-seat venue that will be used for live music and entertainment, as well as a multidimensional outdoor movie theater.
Moving forward, still more plans are underway to expand the park's entertainment options. Those include several new parking garages, hotels, private residences, and a state-of-the-art luxury movie theater.
It's all part of Stronach's dreams to create a landmark destination, a facility that not only provides a sense of wonder to South Florida but gives back to the surrounding community through economic growth.
"The space is always evolving," says Corin Angel, marketing manager for The Village at Gulfstream Park. "The vision, the end goal, is to create an entertainment destination that goes beyond the betting and racing, and I think we're accomplishing that."
In addition to the live entertainment, thoroughbred racing, casino, and dozens of happy hours on-site, a series of ongoing events at Gulfstream Park and The Village at Gulfstream Park include:
- Music in the Park, a free music series featuring a variety of live bands of different genres at Champions Plaza every Saturday from 8 to 11 p.m.
- Bachata Class with Sizzling Salsa Nights at Martini Bar every Wednesdays at 9 p.m.
- Free Disney Cartoon Drawing Class at the Baker Animation Art Gallery on Saturdays from 2 to 3 p.m.
- The Rockin’ Kids Club with a live DJ, interactive games, and free fun activities at Champions Plaza on Saturdays at 10 a.m.
- Mommy & Me Mornings at Cool de Sac every Tuesday and Thursday from 9:30 to 11 a.m.
- Organizational Demos at The Container Store on Saturday and Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m.
Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.