Officials at Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie, Texas say that a stagnant economy played a large role in sluggish attendance and handle figures during the North Texas racetrack's seventh Thoroughbred season. The 70-date meeting, held April 3-July 13, concluded Sunday with slower than usual business levels, just one year after the racetrack posted significant across the board daily average attendance and handle gains."Establishing momentum early is critical to the success of a 15-week season like we have," said Lone Star Park vice president and general manager Jeff Greco. "Understandably, the war with Iraq garnered much of everyone's attention earlier this year, and we weren't able to get off to a good start when the economy bottomed out. When one looks at the Dallas-Fort Worth sports and entertainment marketplace, we have more than held our own, and realize these difficult economic times are just a bump in the road. The good news is that economic data and our business levels have shown signs of encouragement in recent weeks; attendance and handle have been virtually even for the last five weeks compared to our strong meeting a year ago."Attendance during Lone Star Park's meeting slipped 4.4% to an average of 8,600 customers daily compared to 9,000 in 2002. However since the first of June, Lone Star Park's attendance was virtually even the last five weeks compared to the same dates in 2002 – 269,000 customers this year versus 274,000 a year ago. Wagering on the racing – on- and off-track – was close as well with $72.5 million wagered compared to $74.6 million.
"Attendance is an important indicator of the health of the entertainment value we offer," Greco said. "Since the start of June, our attendance has been as strong as 2002. With a new national tax relief plan in effect and the stock market showing signs of growth, we hope that our customers' disposable income can once again be enjoyed on a valued entertainment experience like the sport of horseracing."Overall, wagering on the live racing fell 6.1% from a daily average of $2.68 million to $2.51 million. On-track handle – both live and simulcast wagering – slipped 7.4% from $1.29 million to $1.19 million daily ($565,000 on live racing and $631,000 on simulcasts versus $632,000 and $659,000, respectively, in 2002). Off-track wagering at simulcast outlets across North America dipped 4.7% from $2.04 million to $1.94 million daily.