Last week, the New York Racing Association’s Board of Trustees voted 10-1 to raise admission fees at Belmont and Saratoga. General admission would raise from $3 to $5, and a seat in the clubhouse go from $5 to $8.
NYRA Board member Rick Violette said he thought it was possible the increase could keep some racing fans away, but it’s necessary.
“It’s never the right time to raise prices, it’s never a time to ask for more money – but we are running a business, and sometimes you have to bite the bullet and raise prices.”
However, NYRA has chosen to move forward with a market study on the proposed admission increases before cementing the higher prices.
Meanwhile, some businesses in Saratoga Springs are confident that meet attendees will still pack into the Spa City’s downtown.
Jessica Mullen, manager and buyer at Violet’s, a women’s designer clothing store on Broadway, said she anticipates that customers will still come in to purchase a dress to wear on raceday, even if some may be annoyed at the admission increase.
“I think they will be upset and they’re going to kind of put up a stink, but in the end they still will attend.”
Mullen said she doesn’t anticipate the increase negatively affecting the store.
“I still think that attendance will be good at the track, and I don’t really think it’s going to affect us at all downtown.”
Across Broadway, at the Saratoga Arms hotel, reservations manager Judy Kennedy said rooms at the hotel are booked far in advance of track season, and that the Saratoga Arms’ clients often have their spots at the track booked as well.
“Our clientele generally have their reservations in place with boxes, seats in the dining room, their grandstand seats ahead of time – I don’t think it’s going to have a real affect on guests here at Saratoga Arms.”
Meet attendance was down slightly in 2013 compared to 2012 by about 3.9 percent. The handle was also slightly down.
2013 however, also proved to be a record-breaking year for the tourism industry in Saratoga Springs, with hotel occupancy rates up 4.1 percent over 2012, from June 1st to August 31st.
NYRA is under contract with the state to receive a portion of revenues from VLT facilities, but has also been under pressure to balance a budget without gaming proceeds.
At a recent legislative hearing on the impact of the Equine Industry in New York, industry representatives expressed concern over uncertainty associated with incoming casinos and slot parlors, and whether gaming revenues that directly benefit breeding program could be diverted from the VLTs.