An executive with Oaklawn Park has recommended that the lines of communication between horsemen and upper management be improved at Prairie Meadows.
The recommendation from Eric Jackson, general manager of Oaklawn Park in Arkansas, was among the list of suggestions he made on how the racing program could be improved at the Altoona, Iowa track and casino. Jackson’s review of the track’s racing and marketing was conducted at the request of track management.
In compiling his observations and recommendations that are in a seven-page report "Prairie Meadows: Racing To Tomorrow," Jackson visited the facility in June of this year, interviewing horsemen, management board members, and local officials. In addition, he talked to others who have or were in the past involved with Prairie Meadows and reviewed documents and other information from the track about its business, staffing, and history.
Overall, Jackson was complimentary of the track’s operations and said that with some relatively minor changes, the racing program at Prairie Meadows can "literally take off."
"The external factors are ideal for racing: the early summer Iowa climate (when live racing takes place), Iowa lifestyle, Iowa hospitality, cost of living, and close proximity to major interstates, a major metropolitan area, and a major airport are all tailor made for racing," Jackson said. "My overreaching opinion is this: Everything is teed up perfectly for the sport of racing to ascend to the next level at Prairie Meadows."
Among the negatives Jackson said he found were inadequate on-track promotion of big events taking place at other tracks while Prairie Meadows was racing and the decision to eliminate the media guide published annually.
However, it was the improved communications between horsemen and management that merited the most attention from Jackson. In his report, Jackson cited a belief among horsemen that management at the track wanted to eliminate live racing.
"If only one recommendation from this report is adopted, this should be it," Jackson wrote. "Prairie Meadows needs to find a way to improve the lines of communication between horsemen and upper management. Horsemen and top management are not always going to agree. But there has to be a sincere effort to talk, to listen, to consider, and to respond. And it must be done on a timely basis."
Specifically, Jackson recommended a horsemen-management committee that meets regularly to "review, discuss, and critique every single aspect of the racing program from the backstretch to marketing to personnel... If done properly, this committee will at times produce healthy tension and even appropriate confrontation. When that does happen, both groups have to demonstrate a bias toward compromise."
Jackson’s other recommendations concerned the racing schedule, marketing, labor, the racing product, product delivery, media relations and publicity, and financial justification.