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Officials Kick Off Racing Season With New Markers, Signage In Saratoga Springs

Lucas Willard

Officials gathered in Saratoga Springs today to unveil some new features visitors will likely spot around the Spa City, as they celrbate the 146th meet at Saratoga Race Course.

Less than 24 hours before the opening of Saratoga Race Course, Todd Shimkus, President and CEO of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, said this season, Saratoga Springs will celebrate another year of the public and private sectors coming together to enhance the visitor experience.

He recalled the efforts seen in 2013 through the 150th anniversary celebration of horse racing in the Spa City.

“While the Saratoga 150 celebration  itself may be over, there’s a legacy that continues, and that’s part of what we’re here to celebrate today,” said Shimkus.

Former Saratoga 150 Committee chairman Charles Wait said some of the money raised by the committee last year has been put to use in 2014.

“As most of you know we ended up this season with a substantial surplus of funds even after running 200 events for the Saratoga 150, and the committee decided it was very important that we use these funds to put together some lasting monuments in Saratoga, and to improve and beautify the city. So the committee met, and at one of our first meetings, Bill Dake said ‘Well, I have an idea.’”

Dake is chairman of the Stewart’s Shops corporation, as well as a Saratoga 150 member. His idea was 10 red and white miniature quarter poles located around the city – including seven along Broadway, one at SPAC, and one at each racetrack. The posts feature a QR code that guests can scan with their smartphone to get more information about each portion of the city.

“What we’re really trying to do is put them in a location where there’s a lot of traffic on foot, and where they bump into the mentally-not physically,” said Dake.

In continuing with the theme of connecting the city and the racecourse, the officials announced the return of the Hats Off to Saratoga festival. On Friday and Saturday evenings, local bands and performers will play throughout downtown. The event is sponsored by the Chamber and the New York Racing Association.

When visitors head into town for a day of racing Friday, they may notice new signage directing traffic to Saratoga Race Course. The signs were an idea of NYRA CEO Chris Kay, a newcomer to Saratoga Springs last year.

“Now in my background, I’ve been involved in tourism in Orlando for many years, and I came to learn of the importance of wayfinding – in other words, how to get around. And it just seemed to me that to have a greater connection between all the fun you have the Saratoga Race Course, and all the fun you have downtown, we should have signage to connect the to,” said Kay.

That effort was undertaken by Mayor Joanne Yepsen, who held up some of the new signs to be posted around the Spa City. Yepsen said the temporary signs are the first part of a comprehensive wayfinding program.

“So we’re hoping this will help and we’re looking forward to promoting the whole wayfinding program throughout the next couple years,” said Yepsen.

Another summer season and the 146th meet at Saratoga Race Course kick off tomorrow, with the gates opening at 11 a.m.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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