Since assuming his duties as vice president and general manager of Santa Anita Park on March 31, 48-year-old Chris McCarron has diligently made the rounds while setting priorities designed to enhance Santa Anita's position as one of the world's most respected racing venues."My first step is to learn from different departments how we can do better," McCarron said. "The number one priority is to develop a strategy that is going to put people back in the stands. To achieve that, I have to figure out how the various departments work and how to make the departments work better."McCarron knows he has a daunting task, but feels he is ready for the challenge."It will take time and patience," he said. "It won't be like it was when I was a jockey and I could watch a horse run and make a recommendation that might move the horse up. An experience like that was always extremely satisfying, but it was (relatively) instantaneous. If it took two or three starts, you were talking, what, a month, a month and a half. It's going to take me a lot longer than a month and a half to get people in the seats here."That's why I'm walking around. I've got to find out what is working well and what is not. I've already asked my staff for patience and understanding. When I go to the operations office and talk to Richard (director of operations Richard Price), I'm perfectly frank with him. I tell him, 'Look, you know what you're doing. I don't know what you're doing.' I wouldn't know how to come in and run an operations office. I'm asking for patience in that I want to know how his department works, and I want to know how all the departments work."The industry has given fans plenty of reason not to come to Santa Anita," he said. "There's home betting, Internet betting, ADW (advance deposit wagering), inter-track wagering. We've been forced to provide more convenience (in order) for them to participate. In doing so, we've given them reason to stay away from Santa Anita."So what we have to do at Santa Anita is make the experience happy and memorable every time someone comes here. If someone is at home in Pasadena deciding whether or not to go to the races at Santa Anita and enjoy the nice weather and the atmosphere of live racing, if that person has an enjoyable experience each time he or she goes to Santa Anita, they're going to attend. If not, they're going to bet via the phone and watch the races on TV."McCarron knows it will take a team effort to achieve his goals.
"I'm open to suggestions," McCarron said. "A lot of times, people keep thoughts and ideas to themselves. Sometimes they don't. Depending on a person's makeup and personality, they sometimes share too much (information) and complain in excess. What I'm trying to do is decipher the constructive complaints and what should be filtered out. I'm trying to establish a foundation I can work from to make Santa Anita more attractive to visit."