NTRA Strategic Plan, Dues Structure Still in Works

The board of directors of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association continued to hammer out a long-range strategic plan during a March 3 meeting, but the plan isn't yet ready for a rollout before the general membership.

The NTRA is working on a proposal for 2006-10 that would feature a change in its dues structure to reflect business levels in the industry. The current structure is predicated on handle figures from a late-1990s business plan.

Keith Chamblin, senior vice president of marketing and industry relations for the NTRA, said the strategic plan was the major focus of the board meeting held in Florida. He said there was "no single issue" that kept the board from approving the plan, which received input from a special NTRA committee.

"There's just a consensus among the board that it's a very, very important document, and the board wasn't to make sure the organization is focused on the appropriate priorities during the next phase of the NTRA," Chamblin said. "I would say we've looked at a number of structures (for membership dues) and have yet to determine which structure we will take to the marketplace."

Chamblin said there isn't a timeframe for adoption of the strategic plan and dues structure. When asked if there is some urgency so the NTRA can sell the plan to the industry in time for next year, he said: "The board by and large is the industry, so if our board...were to agree upon a funding mechanism for the identified programs going forward, our work in signing up the membership by and large would be completed."

On the racetrack side, the NTRA board has representatives from the three racing entities that control most of the major racetracks in the country: Churchill Downs Inc., Magna Entertainment Corp., and the New York Racing Association. Major horsemen's groups also have representation.

The NTRA cooperative advertising program, originally a large carrot for racetrack members, will be discontinued at the end of 2005. Horsemen's groups have said they don't benefit as much from that program, so the NTRA over the years has attempted to devise other programs that benefit horsemen.

NTRA commissioner D.G. Van Clief Jr. couldn't be immediately reached for comment.

The NTRA board also approved a final operating budget for 2005, with operating revenues projected at $65.4 million and operating expenses at $65.2 million. The largest budget item at $21.38 million is for Breeders' Cup purses and awards.

The NTRA also said it had a $5-million increase in revenue and a $900,000 operating surplus in 2004. Chamblin said $2.6 million of the revenue increase came from sponsorship programs, $2.1 million from Breeders' Cup programs, and $300,000 from membership dues.