SARATOGA SPRINGS – The city of Saratoga Springs is busy preparing for the upcoming Travers weekend.
The 153rd Travers Stakes will be held Saturday, Aug. 27 at Saratoga RAce Course, but preparations for the city’s population influx start long ahead of time.
“The city’s workforce is pretty used to this,” Saratoga Springs mayor Ron Kim said. “It’s always a big weekend. We have our police, fire, first responders set to go. It’s really almost a routine now.”
Kim explained the city makes sure it has sufficient numbers of its workforce on duty the weekend of the Travers. He said the city’s police and fire departments know what to expect that weekend, and know how to handle the crowds of people coming.
“We expect the numbers of people to obviously increase and we just want to emphasize safety for everybody who’s visiting, and also for our workers,” Kim said.
Kim encouraged everyone coming to the city to have a fun and safe time and advised people to park in the city’s new parking garage, as it is in the middle of downtown and allows for them to park and move about the city.
“We love having you, we also ask that you make sure that you’re courteous and kind to all the other visitors and to our first responders,” Kim said.
This year the track saw a 10% increase in opening week attendance, from 94,087 in 2021 to 103,254 in 2022.
“As far as Travers, we always plan for that, because that’s like Super Bowl Sunday up here,” Saratoga Springs police Lt. Bob Jillson said. “We start conversations with all the other players, fire department, track and NYRA security weeks and months ahead of time.”
Travers Day brought a paid attendance of over 44,500 people to the city last year.
“The track has the city full-force,” Jillson said. “Attendance is through the roof, too, from what I’m gathering. We’ve been seeing the influx of crowds downtown, the traffic increases already even in this past week and the weekend before.”
The Travers brings large numbers of people to the city from Thursday night through Sunday, Jillson said.
“It will be a constant flow and we get as many hands on deck as we can,” Jillson said. “The men and women here have done a great job stepping up to fill those spots that we need and we anticipate to do the same again for next weekend.”
The Saratoga Springs Police Department has officers downtown every weekend of race season, Jillson said. He explained that year-to-year there is congestion on Caroline Street and in the downtown area and traffic from the increase of people.
City police has spoken with state police and the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office in case something occurs where further assistance is needed, Jillson said. He explained this year they have handled large crowds.
“We had our share of significant tragedies last summer,” Jillson said. “Knocking on wood, we haven’t had anything too bad this summer, relatively speaking. We have seen the volume of people out, the crowds have been good, the level of problems has not been as significant as last summer.”
Numbers of officers in town and on patrol will be as high as ever on Travers weekend, Saratoga Springs Public Safety Commissioner Jim Montagnino said. He explained they have more staff on duty and utilize their equine and canine officers as well.
“We’re at very high staffing levels,” Montagnino said. “We anticipate a significant presence of public safety, both police and emergency medical services so it should be a very busy and a very safe weekend as well.”
The New York Racing Association reported slightly higher attendance this year compared to last year for some of the seasons biggest days. Whitney Day was up this year by about 0.024% from 38,525 in paid attendance last year to 39,478 this year. Jim Dandy Day saw an attendance increase of about 0.016% from 36,840 in paid attendance in 2021 to 37,476 in 2022.
“Although we won’t speculate on attendance numbers, NYRA does expect a big crowd for the 2022 Runhappy Travers on August 27.,” Patrick McKenna, NYRA vice president of communications said in a statement. “As reflected in strong attendance and handle numbers throughout the summer meet, the popularity of Saratoga Race Course is at an all-time high.”
NYRA works closely with state and local law enforcement agencies to ensure the safety and security of Saratoga Race Course, McKenna said.