Saratoga County

Advisory group unveils list of track improvements

A local committee wants to update Saratoga Race Course without leaving 21st century marks on it and

A local committee wants to update Saratoga Race Course without leaving 21st century marks on it and has developed a slate of possible changes designed to retain historic architectural and landscape components.

The local advisory board charged with coming up with potential improvements for the New York Racing Association presented the results of four years’ work to the public Tuesday night. The group will forward the plan to the NYRA franchise oversight board, which may decide at a meeting today to appoint itself lead agency in the environmental review process necessary before constructing anything new at the track.

Paul Roberts of Turnberry Consulting presented a comprehensive plan of potential changes, including building more horse barns and dormitories, moving kitchens out of wooden buildings that weren’t designed for them, making use of empty space in the grandstand for a restaurant and creating a paddock that will allow for more viewers.

NYRA ultimately will decide which improvements to make.

The plan presented Tuesday builds on an architectural survey the committee rolled out in 2011. The 15-member advisory board includes local business leaders, county officials and NYRA officials.

Attempts to keep the historic character of the track intact are apparent throughout the proposal, from plans to keep new buildings from dwarfing existing ones to sketches that show barn-like office buildings and dormitories.

Saratoga is one of few racetracks in the world that have been successfully able to keep its historic ambiance over time and simultaneously accommodate large crowds, Roberts said. Many other tracks built modern grandstands in the middle of the 20th century.

“Saratoga is almost a constant line through time and technology to where it is today,” he said.

Here’s a rundown of some of the proposals, which the committee did not prioritize:

• Construct a new building at the corner of Wright Street and Nelson Avenue to house kitchens now located in the clubhouse, along with a store and certain offices. One kitchen would be left in the clubhouse to finish cooking food to serve to patrons.

• Construct a new building for a restaurant and luxury suites to replace temporary structures at the rail. The new building’s roof line should be lower than the clubhouse, Roberts said.

• Keep the clubhouse porch, Turf Terrace and box seats as they are.

• In the grandstand, reorient the wagering stations so they’re circular instead of linear. Remove mezzanine catwalks built for making cash runs and add a skylight to let more light into the Carousel.

• Create a Top of the Stretch club inside the east end of the grandstand, where large sections of seats are usually empty. The eatery would be less expensive and less formal than the clubhouse and replaces the concept of a separate Top of the Stretch building east of the grandstand.

• Grade the track apron a little more steeply so patrons standing in the back have a better view.

• Return the old saddling shed behind the grandstand to its former use. It is now walled off with pari-mutuel betting windows on the outside. “It should be what it was designed to be,” Roberts said.

• Create a smaller parade ring with a tiered viewing area so as many as 2,500 people can watch horses walk before the race.

• Move the jockeys to the parade ring and open up what is now the jockey building to make a café and information office.

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