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NYRA Announces Improvements for Saratoga

NYRA will solicit public commentary and feedback to determine next steps.

The New York Racing Association announced Sept. 1 a menu of 21 potential capital improvement projects for Saratoga Race Course designed to secure the historic nature of the race track while enhancing the facilities and overall fan experience.

The project menu includes major improvements, upgrades, and renovations to the backstretch and frontside sections of the historic track property. The various proposed capital improvement projects will be open for public comment and feedback from the community in order to assess priority and implementation over the course of a planned five- to 10-year initial build out.

“NYRA is deeply committed to preserving the historic fabric of Saratoga Race Course while implementing a capital improvement strategy that will allow Saratoga to grow and flourish for years to come,” said NYRA president and CEO Charles Hayward in a statement. “This menu of potential projects is designed to generate feedback from the public in order to incorporate the needs and wants of every Saratoga stakeholder, including the fans, horsemen, and general community.”

The menu of projects will first be introduced to the public during a community forum at the Saratoga Springs City Center Sept. 1 at 6:30 p.m. EDT. Visual renderings will remain on display at the City Center through Sept. 2. The exhibition will be moved to Saratoga Sept. 3 and will be available for public viewing near the Jockey Silks Room through Labor Day, the final day of the 2011 Saratoga meet.

“The projects we choose to undertake will not be determined unilaterally,” said Hayward. “We recognize that part of what makes Saratoga so special is its deep integration and embracement by the community. All of us at NYRA truly look forward to hearing from the public as we prepare to make essential and intelligent changes to bolster the fan experience and to secure the future of Saratoga. The only project not up for public debate is the much-needed improvements to the dormitories and facilities along the backstretch.”

Funding for the capital improvement projects will come from revenue generated through the installation of 4,500 video lottery terminal machines and 500 electronic table games at Aqueduct. According to statute, NYRA will receive four percent of revenues from these VLTs for capital improvements--or an estimated $27.6 million annually--based on figures provided by the VLT operator, Genting New York.

Saratoga was identified as the initial focus for upgrades and enhancements based on need. The layout of Saratoga provides more flexibility in managing renovations on a project-by-project basis and the ability to apply capital efficiently to increase revenue. While there has not been an overarching strategy for renovations at Saratoga since the Jockey Club Plan in 1956, the property has undergone a series of gradual changes, including the extension of the grandstand in 1965; the construction of the carousel in the late 1980s; and the completion of the new entrance gates and jockey house complex in 2000.

An extensive historical analysis and studies of the backstretch and frontside of Saratoga were recently completed by the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation, with assistance from NYRA and Turnberry Consulting US, a London-based property and planning consultancy practice that has been appointed by NYRA to advise the direction of capital improvements to Saratoga, Belmont Park, and Aqueduct. The potential projects being presented by NYRA are the results of those studies and analysis.

The projects are listed in detail at Comments may be directed to beginning Friday, Sept. 2.