Barbara D. Livingston

Empire Racing Calls for Saratoga's Placement on Historic Registers

(Edited press release)

Empire Racing, May 30, called for the specific placement of Saratoga Race Course and other nearby racing properties on the National and State Registers of Historic Places.

“It is shocking that Saratoga’s most historic structure is specifically not listed on either Register,” said Kevin Carey, former executive director of the Natural Heritage Trust, a public benefit corporation dedicated to conservation and historic preservation. Carey works with Empire on historic preservation issues.

Empire Racing chief executive officer Jeff Perlee sent a letter Wednesday morning to Saratoga Springs Mayor Valerie Keehn highlighting the need to place the New York racing facility and other historic racing-related buildings on the registers.

Empire Racing included the proposal in Governor Spitzer’s franchise selection panel in April and has pledged to fund the entire process. Getting placed on the register requires the successful completion of a complex application process.

Failure to specifically list the structures on the registry limits the Saratoga's chances for receiving grants that could be used to preserve the property.

Portions of the track property lie within the Union Avenue Historic District, which includes more than 250 buildings and private homes and is listed on both the federal and state historic districts. However, the racecourse--including the Victorian grandstand, clubhouse, and paddock area--is not specifically listed on either register.

“As a former member of the Saratoga-Capitol State Park Commission, I learned that specific historic buildings within a larger historic district should themselves be specifically designated," Perlee said. "That has not been done by the current operator and, frankly, it’s something that should have been done a long time ago."

Empire’s proposal also calls for the expansion of the Union Avenue Historic District to include properties on the north side of Union Avenue such as the recreation hall, stables, and Oklahoma Training Track. Empire details specific renovations to the backstretch buildings, BEST offices, and recreation hall to remedy their current disrepair. 

Empire also outlines restrictions for the property to ensure it is used for equine purposes only and prevent the “petting zoo” proposal made by another franchise bidder.