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NYRA Announces Free Day At Saratoga Race Course

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The New York Racing Association (NYRA) hopes to continue to operate the Saratoga, Belmont and Aqueduct tracks.

As part of Saratoga Springs’s Centennial Celebration, fans will be able to experience a day at the races free of charge this August.

The New York Racing Association announced Monday that all guests at Saratoga Race Course on August 5th will be treated to clubhouse and grandstand seating free of charge. Although horse racing has been a tradition at the Spa for more than 150 years, the event is one of many that have been held throughout the year to recognize Saratoga Springs’ centennial.

NYRA CEO Chris Kay was joined at City Hall by Mayor Joanne Yepsen and Saratoga County Chamber President Todd Shimkus.

Kay said the idea of a free day at the track was first pitched by the mayor.

“Several weeks ago we proposed the New York Racing Association celebrate Saratoga’s Centennial Day at Saratoga Race Course on Wednesday, August 5th with free admission. I’ve still got a sore arm, by the way,” joked Kay.

Word of the free admission comes on the heels of the announcement of several changes this year, not all popular with longtime fans. Changes include a new a picnic table reservation system and reserved seating at a new sports bar. Kay assured fans there will be the same number of unreserved picnic tables as last year.

“Since 2013 we’ve offered several hundred additional picnic tables, such that we had 850 last year, a substantial increase from the 500 that were here in 2011.”

Kay said while NYRA has done much over the past two years to include more special events at the track, the centennial celebration is a bit different.

The track will be decorated to reflect the styles of 100 years ago. Actors in Victorian costumes will be strolling the grounds. Also planned: a performance by members of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and track announcer Larry Collmus will sing “Happy Birthday” and there will be cake.

Kay said past special event days during the week have drawn up to about 16,000 people, but he predicts a larger turnout for the centennial.

“Part of the reason we’re making this announcement now is so that the word can get out so that people here in Saratoga can plan ahead, and also those who like to come up to Saratoga, hopefully, rather than coming up on a Friday will come up on a Wednesday, spend more time in your hotels, spend more time in your restaurants, and enjoy a great day when we celebrate the 100th year anniversary,” said Kay.

Kay said guests who reserved a seat in advance will be receive a $5 refund for a grandstand seat or $8 for a spot in the clubhouse. Meanwhile, grandstand season pass holders will receive a $1 refund; clubhouse season pass holders will be credited $2.

The Chamber of Commerce welcomed the idea and Todd Shimkus thanked NYRA for following through on the mayor’s suggestion. He said it’s important to “pull out all the stops” to bring visitors to Saratoga County.

“It’s not often you turn 100. I think we all hope we might someday. It only happens once and so it’s only fitting that we celebrate by opening the gates to let everyone to see the best racing, the best horses, the best jockeys, that you will see anywhere in the world.”

According to an economic impact report released earlier this year, the race course generates $240 million of economic activity in the Capital Region and supports about 2,600 jobs.

Saratoga Race Course opens on Friday, July 24th and concludes on Labor Day, Monday, September 7th.

In 2013 Saratoga Springs and the Saratoga Race Course celebrated the 150th anniversary of the track. Centennial events held in the Spa City this year also include the rededication of the Spirit of Life statue, the opening of a new centennial park, and a re-enacting of the city’s first council meeting.

Mayor Yepsen:

“You know, I think the New York Times said it best years ago when they said ‘You drive from New York City, you drive 100 miles north, you get off Exit 14, you take a left, and you go back 100 years.’ That’s exactly what we’re going to do on August 5th, 2015.”

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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