Attendance Up, Handle Off Slightly at Santa Anita

(edited Santa Anita report)
Santa Anita Park concluded its 67th season Sunday with an increase in average daily on-track attendance for the first time in five years, but average daily handle declined as well.

Average daily on-track attendance for the 84-day meet was 8,900, an increase of 3% over the 2002-03 meet, while average daily on-track handle was unchanged at $2.2 million.

"This was a very successful meet for us, " said Chris McCarron, Santa Anita's vice-president and general manager. "I am particularly proud that an exciting combination of facility enhancements and new marketing initiatives has reversed the trend of historical on-track attendance declines. It bodes well for a bright future for our sport."

Average daily total handle, which includes wagers on Santa Anita by Advanced Deposit Wagering providers, was $10.6 million, a decrease of 3% from last year. At Southern California off-track locations (SCOTWINC), average daily handle was $3.2 million, a decrease of 2%, while average daily out-of-state handle was $4.5 million, a decrease of 9%.

While off-track results were off slightly from last year, on-track numbers were encouraging. New features, such as Sirona's Restaurant on the terrace level, and post-race concerts by popular artists such as Ziggy Marley and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, attracted bigger on-track crowds.

On-track attendance of 36,155 for the April 3 Santa Anita Derby was up nearly 2,000 from 2003, and the total mutuel handle of $22 million was the 12th largest single day handle in track history. Two other traditional big events, the Dec. 26 opening day and the March 3 Santa Anita Handicap, drew crowds of 28,295 and 27,653, respectively, up substantially from a year ago.