05/31/2012 4:05PM

Calder intends to charge backstretch workers rent for dorm rooms


MIAMI – Officials at Calder Racecourse announced Thursday that they will begin charging a fee of $5 per day per room (double occupancy) to residents currently residing in dormitory or cottage rooms located within the track’s barn area. The fee will go into effect as of June 14.

Calder also informed dorm residents and local horsemen Thursday that the rooms located above Barns 75 and 79 as well as the stalls within those barns have been deemed no longer suitable for occupancy and as a result must be vacated as of July 15 for “future demolition.”

Calder officials said that due to rising costs and declining parimutuel revenues, they are no longer able to provide the use of the rooms for free. They cited housing costs at the track to be estimated at $370,000 annually and that the intent of assessing room fees was to help offset those costs.

Officials also noted that a $200,000 restoration project of the rooms and bathroom facilities within the cottages is currently about halfway completed.

Calder officials declined further comment.

Officials of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association were upset over the track’s intention to charge rent and both eliminate dorm rooms and potentially demolish two barns during the course of the meet. The 2012 Calder racing season ends on Nov. 30.

“We believe the latest decision to demolish two barns and remove residents from the accompanying dorm rooms is in retaliation for the press release and notice to our membership that we circulated over the weekend about Calder’s intention to charge room rent,” said FHBPA president Phil Combest. “This whole issue of room rent is absurd, especially the manner in which they dropped it on us in the middle of the meet without any negotiation. The first we heard of it was at a meeting three weeks ago. They haven’t charged room rent here in 41 years and suddenly in June of a racing season they tell us they want a half-million dollars over the course of a year for rent.”

Combest said Gulfstream Park, by comparison, charges $700 per room over the course of its six-month meeting for dorm rooms that each contain a kitchen and bathroom. He said by comparison the rooms at Calder, which like at Gulfstream houses two workers apiece, are just “four walls and a window.”

“They are charging more money than any other track for the worst rooms in American racing,” said Combest.