SARATOGA SPRINGS – Construction plans for Saratoga Race Course this year include a major renovation of its first-floor grandstand and the inclusion of a permanent saddling stall structure.
Those projects are set to get underway this year at the Union Avenue venue, New York Racing Association officials said during a recent meeting.
The association’s major announcement Friday was that the historic “Wilson Chute” at the race course will be reconstructed and in use this summer for one-mile races on the main track.
But there are also other projects — notably, the start of a second phase of construction to refurbish the grandstand, which has 27 concession stands, Glen Kozak, the association’s senior vice president of operations and capital projects, said during Friday’s virtual meeting of the New York State Franchise Oversight Board.
Kozak oversees NYRA’s $50 million operating budget for maintenance of Belmont Park, Saratoga Race Course and Aqueduct Racetrack.
A bid has already been awarded for an architectural design of the multiyear project, with construction expected to start in the spring, Kozak said.
The work includes expanding the bar that’s adjacent to the paddock.
Kozak said the association wants a design that will allow the venue to offer food from more local vendors. It already uses Hattie’s Restaurant and wood-fired pizza from Pies on Wheels, among others, he said.
The scope of the project has increased to where an elevator was added to the plans, Kozak said.
About 90 people can be served on the grandstand’s second floor, and Kozak said it will offer “an awesome view overlooking the horse path in the paddock, and it gets rid of one of the tents that was always an eyesore.”
Meanwhile, the current saddling stall — a steel-tubed, pipe-framed structure with a canvas covering stretched over the top — will be replaced with a permanent structure.
During heavy rains, race-goers, some of whom drag beverage coolers and baby strollers, funnel underneath a walking area to the saddling stalls, creating an unsafe environment for horses that circle the area, Kozak said.
“It’s not a good situation,” he said, describing the noise that scared the horses that were being saddled.
The permanent structure will improve safety and conditions for owners, trainers, horses and jockeys, he said. It will have a larger cantilever roof to supply more surface area for horses to walk and people to stand.
In addition, the stone dust that had been a constant maintenance issue will be replaced with rubber pavers, similar to what was installed from Union Avenue into the walking ring and to the track.
Association officials said they’re also starting to evaluate the more than 100 aging outbuildings that are in various states of disrepair. Some of the buildings are used as dormitories. Some will be converted into other useful purposes.
Kozak said he’s had good initial talks with the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation regarding the plans. Any dismantling of buildings would have to be in concert with recommendations from the organization, he said. The State Historic Preservation Office is also involved in the permitting process.
The New York Racing Association is accepting bids until Feb. 2 to provide the necessary labor and materials to build a food and beverage concession stand and bar within the Saratoga Race Course grandstand.
Its also accepting bids through this week to provide a long sleeve T-shirt for a giveaway at the Saratoga Race Course.
The association closed bids on Friday for architectural planning, programming, design, engineering, and permitting services for various hospitality and operational areas at Saratoga Race Course, and a separate bid for dining tables, chairs, couches, high top tables and chairs, and other furniture for new hospitality projects within Saratoga Race Course.
Contact reporter Brian Lee at [email protected] or 518-419-9766.