Saratoga County

Association aims to draw horse racing fans together

A new racing fan association could attract as many as 5,000 to 10,000 members this summer.
Mary Papa of Ballston Spa paints the curb in front of a new enclosed viewing area at the Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs on Thursday.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Mary Papa of Ballston Spa paints the curb in front of a new enclosed viewing area at the Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs on Thursday.

A new racing fan association could attract as many as 5,000 to 10,000 members this summer.

That was one of three revelations Thursday at the Saratoga Race Course by the New York Racing Association. NYRA also revealed $1.1 million in capital upgrades at the track and said it did not expect to emerge from bankruptcy by its contract extension deadline of July 13.

With a $25 starting annual membership that is discounted to $20 if people buy it before the Saratoga meet or during the meet at the track, the Thoroughbred Racing Fan Association hopes to inspire fans while also giving them discounts at local restaurants and Daily Racing Form books and a break on a Thoroughbred Times subscription.

“We are trying to get a critical mass of fans together,” said Michael Amo, chairman of the new nonprofit organization’s board of directors. “We like to think that for the fan, we want to educate, advocate and excite.”

The association is expected to draw fans from across the state and eventually the country, said Joanne Yepsen, vice-chairwoman and a Saratoga County supervisor.

“We think there’s no better place than Saratoga to launch this association,” she said.

The association will have a table set up under the Carousel at the track when the season opens July 23. For more information, visit www.thorofan.com

Air conditioning in two enclosed tents at Saratoga Race Course and other improvements made this year may inspire more people to become racing fans.

New York Racing Association officials unveiled $1.1 million in capital upgrades Thursday.

The At the Rail Pavilion, an upscale dining tent on the Clubhouse turn, is now an enclosed 66-by-120-foot air conditioned temporary building. Glass walls give a view of the horse path and the track.

“We invested heavily in this structure,” said Gavin Landry, NYRA’s senior vice president for marketing and sales, adding that each of the two new tents cost about $100,000 compared to the former At the Rail Pavilion tent cost of $17,000.

“We think the people ought to be able to get out of the rain if they can,” Landry said.

A new Paddock Pavilion is also air conditioned and offers a buffet lunch to individuals or groups.

Both buildings will be taken down and rebuilt each year by private contractors who win the bid, said Facilities Manager Charlie Wheeler.

An air conditioned Saratoga Preferred Access Hospitality Lounge at the finish line will also be enclosed with windows for a good view.

But it’s not for the casual track-goer.

The hospitality lounge and its perks — including admission and concierge service — costs $15,000 for the six-week meet and is also available on a daily and weekly basis.

“I think at this level of attraction, you have to have this level of amenity,” Landry said.

A fifth luxury suite also was added this year at the clubhouse turn.

Fans may notice other improvements made this year, including: a refinished wooden clubhouse floor, the Restaurant Row vending area that features dishes from some local eateries for $4 to $7 each, new flat screen televisions installed during the meet on the first floor of the clubhouse and grandstand and a rotating display of photos of the jockeys with the best standing in the silks room.

NYRA won’t take a cut of the profits from the Restaurant Row vendors, Landry said. “This was not a money-motivated event.”

The United Kingdom Racing area that debuted last year returns again this season with a bar named Bunbury’s after Sir Charles Bunbury, who lost the legendary coin toss to the Twelfth Earl of Derby to name a horse race for colts in the late 1700s.

On the bankruptcy topic, Charles Hayward, NYRA president and chief executive officer, said he doesn’t expect the required franchise agreement, the settlement agreement with the state and lease agreement with the future video lottery terminal vendor to be in place by the end of the week. Those documents have to be completed before NYRA will be out of bankruptcy, Hayward said.

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