The Saratoga 150 committee will likely end the summer with a significant surplus that could be used for future events.
Charles V. Wait, co-chairman of the committee, which was formed to celebrate the start of racing in the city 150 years ago, said Wednesday that the committee doesn’t have any plans yet for the money, but he hopes it can be spent on something with a lasting impact. “I think it should be used for something that will benefit the community for a long time to come,” he said of the surplus.
The committee has yet to close its books, so Wait said it wasn’t clear how much money would be left over except that it would be a substantial sum. Counting money spent by others on Saratoga 150 events, almost $2.5 million was raised, a significant portion through the sale of Saratoga 150 medallions and donated merchandise.
Two Saratoga 150 committee meetings are scheduled to review this year’s accomplishments, which included more than 200 events under the umbrella of Saratoga 150 and 17 signature events, to determine what worked, what didn’t work and what might be done in the future. In gauging the impact of the committee, he said, “The first metric we’re going to use is press [coverage], and I think there is ample evidence that this was successful.”
This summer Saratoga Springs was featured in media outlets all over the world, including The New York Times, Montreal Gazette, Forbes and The Associated Press.
Wait said they will also look at gambling and attendance at Saratoga Race Course but will examine both in comparison to national racing trends. Gambling on Saratoga races is up this year compared with last year and paid admissions are down slightly, although by both measures thoroughbred racing is doing much better in Saratoga than elsewhere in the nation.
Wait was happy with the impact of the committee, saying it was a “great bang for the buck.
“We suffered a lot of negative publicity in racing over the last five or six years, and this summer was all good,” he added.
Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce President Todd Shimkus, a member of the Saratoga 150 committee, said a consumer survey is one possibility for judging the success of the committee’s work. He said the committee has collected thousands of names and email addresses through its website, contests and events, and those people could be sent a few basic questions to get their opinion on the summer.
The committee’s most popular event this summer, the Floral Fete and ice cream social, which attracted more than 30,000 people to downtown Saratoga Springs, may or may not come back next year in some form. “It was great and people want to do it again next year, but I don’t know if we can repeat it,” Wait said. “That was such a huge effort by volunteers; to me, that would be hard to sustain every year.”
The event ended up having a price tag of more than $20,000, but he said it was only that low because so many individuals, organizations and businesses donated time and supplies, such as carriages and ice cream.
Another challenge to re-creating the events of this summer is the amount of planning involved. Preparations for the Saratoga 150 events started more than two years ago.
John Hendrickson, an honorary co-chairman of the committee, said he would like to see the $15,000 bet promotion rekindled next summer. He and wife Marylou Whitney sponsored five $15,000 win bets during the meet, and more than 17,000 people entered to win a chance to make a bet. Hendrickson said a corporate sponsor should be identified to continue the promotion in some form next summer.
The final $15,000 contest wager of the summer will be made Saturday on the Woodward Stakes by Averill Park resident Mary Burns.
On Friday, New York Racing Association officials and members of the Saratoga 150 committee will meet in the winner’s circle for a ceremony after the fourth race, which is named “Saratoga 150: Memories to Last a Lifetime.” The ceremony will showcase items to be buried in a time capsule, and it will honor Robert Clark, the equine artist who painted the Saratoga 150 horse, which will move to its permanent home at the National Museum of Racing at the end of the meet.