Revamped housing facilities and a new viewing stand for the training track could be in place for next summer’s meet at the Saratoga Race Course.
At the first meeting of the reconstituted New York Racing Association board of directors, held Wednesday in Manhattan, members laid out big plans for the historic track next year, which will be celebrating its 150th year of racing.
Board member Michael Dubb outlined the first major project, which is an upgrade to two of the dormitories for backstretch workers. He said they’ve begun refurbishing with the hopes of having them ready in April when horses and personnel begin arriving to work out on the Oklahoma training track.
Dubb said a local architect has been brought on to ensure any changes are in line with the architecture of Saratoga Springs. NYRA expects that the state will grant work permits in the near future.
The changes will include new locker room facilities and changes to the heating and cooling, and Dubb said the final product would be something the board members would approve of sleeping in. “They will be a model for us to build on,” he said, noting that more renovations are planned. “We’ve wanted for so long to get something done here.”
This has been a major issue for former NYRA board member John Hendrickson, who is now a special adviser, and his wife, socialite Marylou Whitney. One board member noted earlier in the meeting that Hendrickson and Whitney have spearheaded all of the backstretch relief efforts in recent years and said he hopes NYRA can play a larger role.
The other major proposed structure is a viewing stand for the Oklahoma track. This would serve as a permanent monument for the 150th anniversary, but would also give fans a better way to experience the morning track workouts.
The public viewing stand design is modeled after one from the course’s past. It could be built in phases, with the second and final phase including vendors, bathrooms, and a formal entry garden. The structure would stand more than 36 feet high.
Ed Lewi, a publicist involved in the anniversary celebration, said the proposition will likely be considered when the NYRA board determines its budget for 2013.
In the past, Lewi noted that the viewing public didn’t always have access to the training track.
“The public loves to go back in that area,” he said, adding that the viewing stand would be a nice part of the planned celebration.
Currently the group organizing the celebrations has about $200,000 to spend, according to NYRA Board member Charles Wait.
He said they have raised just over $300,000, mostly from licensing revenue, and have spent about $100,000.
Hendrickson said plans for 2013 in Saratoga Springs include a hoof print walk of fame for famous horses, a weekly $15,000 bet promotion that will give a few lucky bettors a briefcase full of cash to wager, and a commemorative horse on Union Avenue for people to pose alongside. There will also be a floral celebration Aug. 2 in downtown Saratoga Springs that will culminate with an ice cream social in Congress Park.
“This is probably going to be the biggest celebration Saratoga has ever had,” Hendrickson said
More about the celebration can be found online at www.saratoga150.com.