They were closed for renovations, anyway.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic closed down the renovations.
The National Racing Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame at least was able to resume construction on its Hall of Fame Education Experience last week. Although a scheduled opening to coincide with the July 16 start of the Saratoga Race Course meet won’t happen, the museum hopes that fans will be able to enjoy the new Education Experience sometime in the late summer/early fall, depending on state guidelines.
The museum closed in January to begin the work, then lost about nine weeks of construction due to the pandemic.
“We had a little bit of time worked in to make sure all the tech was working and all that, but our hope now is we’re probably looking at late August, but it might be first week of September, early fall, depending on reopening procedures with the state and everything that’s allowed,” museum communications director Brien Bouyea said.
“But we are pretty far along with the construction. They are hoping to be done with the actual physical work in late July, and there’s some tech installments to go along.”
“We’re excited that we are able to move forward with the Hall of Fame Education Experience,” museum director Cate Johnson said in a release. “This is an important project for the Museum and the sport of thoroughbred racing and we look forward to sharing it with everyone as soon as possible. The work is going well and we are adhering to all state regulations and best practices related to health and safety.”
The Hall of Fame Education Experience will feature a re-imagined and dynamic new Hall of Fame, including a state-of-the-art signature film and cutting-edge interactive Hall of Fame digital plaques.
The new digital inductee plaques will include an in-depth multi-media look at the lives and careers of each human and equine member of the Hall of Fame. The project also includes a complete renovation of the adjoining Race Day Gallery and other updates throughout the museum.
The museum has raised more than $13 million toward a campaign goal of $20 million for the Hall of Fame Education Experience, which was announced in August 2018.
“We want to get it done right, so it’s not something we’re going to rush to try to do during the season,” Bouyea said. “We’re not really sure if they’ll allow fans for the second half of the meet. That would be beneficial, to have people in town, but it’s hard to predict anything.
“Our best-case scenario is probably late August, so we’d have maybe a week or two of track, anyway, so it’s not like we’re going to get super attendance numbers. Everything I’ve heard in town is people aren’t able to rent anything, nobody’s really coming this summer. There’s just so much uncertainty.”
Bouyea said the museum will have some Zoom educational programs and Q&A’s during the meet, and an updated website will be up and running this summer.
The Hall of Fame has canceled its annual ball and induction ceremony, which had been scheduled for Aug. 7.
The 2019 inductees will take part in the class of 2020 ceremony, which could make for a crowded and long program, especially since trainer Todd Pletcher and Triple Crown winner American Pharoah will be eligible for induction next year.
“I think we got used to bigger classes the last two years, because we put in a large number of Pillars of the Turf,” Bouyea said. “I think we had 15 inductees last year and 14 the year before. Next year, there’s a couple of very, very big new-eligibles. So we don’t want a ceremony that goes four or five hours or anything like that.
“We want to do it right, but we’re not going to have anybody up there giving half-hour speeches. People want these to move along. But we’re going to do it right, and I’m absolutely confident we’re going to put on a very good ceremony. We work with great production people, so it’ll go well.”
Donations to the Education Experience can be by clicking on the “more information” button at www.racingmuseum.org or by phone to project manager Cathy Marino at 518-584-0400, ext. 112. There is also an informational video through the “more information” button.