Strapped NYRA Raises Saratoga Ticket Prices

Two weeks after agreeing to pay a $3 million settlement with the federal government, the New York Racing Association has raised the price for some reserved seats at Saratoga Race Course in 2004 by 25%.

NYRA, which has reported multimillion-dollar losses for 2001 and 2002, has a state franchise to operate Saratoga, Belmont Park and Aqueduct.

In its Christmas editions on Thursday, the Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y. reported that NYRA has increased the cost of tickets for the Travers and also revised its longstanding advance purchase policy and will require people to pay the daily admission fee for each ticket. Previously, the ticket holder paid for the admission each day upon entering the track.

The changes will nearly double the up-front cost of buying a clubhouse reserved ticket. For example, customers paid $288 this year to purchase an $8 seat for the entire 36-day meet. The price of the ticket was increased to $10 daily, and to $20 for the Travers. With the addition of the $5 daily clubhouse admission up front, the renewal cost is $550, payable by Jan. 31.

"We are trying to increase revenues yet be fair with our public," NYRA senior vice president Bill Nader said.

The Saratoga meeting is the most popular in the country in terms of daily average on-track attendance and daily average handle. The demand for seats far exceeds the supply.

Talking about the price increases, Nader said, "It's an adjustment of where we should be and where we were."

Nader said the general admission price will remain at $3.

Many of the season seat subscribers received letters from NYRA on Wednesday that listed the 2004 rates. The letter did not mention that prices had increased.

"The timing of it is bad," said Joe Cacciolfi of Schenectady, a season ticket holder for many years. Cacciolfi said NYRA should have included an explanation for the changes "to soften the blow."

Nader said that trackside parking fees will also be increased for the 2004 Saratoga meeting.