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NYRA expects to meet deadline for re-privatization plan
NEW YORK – As the New York Racing Association approaches the two-year anniversary of a takeover by the state, the company appears to be moving closer to developing a long-term plan for the re-privatization of the organization, one that must be submitted to the governor by April.
At a NYRA Re-Organization Board meeting held Monday in Manhattan – at which officials trumpeted the success of the Saratoga meet and Belmont Stakes Day – chairman David Skorton said that NYRA president and chief executive Chris Kay and members of the board’s long-term planning committee will soon bring to the table ideas regarding the future of NYRA. The long-term planning committee is chaired by Michael Dubb and Bobby Flay.
Among the issues to be decided will be the viability of NYRA maintaining both Aqueduct and Belmont Park, two tracks that are eight miles apart.
“These are a bunch of tough issues about which not everybody will agree,” said Skorton, who will be leaving his position as NYRA chair in mid-2015 to preside over the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. “Over the next several weeks, Chris and his team will be preparing something to discuss at public meeting.”
NYRA has scheduled board meetings for Nov. 12 and Dec. 3 to discuss the company’s future.
No long-term specifics were discussed at Monday’s meeting, but Kay said “one overreaching priority is to optimize New York Thoroughbred racing for future growth and success … We are required to submit a proposed plan in April. We will meet or beat that schedule.”
Kay said NYRA’s plan will entail a three-year financial component detailing NYRA’s financial performance in 2014 as well as an approved budget for 2015 and a proposed budget for 2016.
At Monday’s meeting, NYRA reported that its earned income from racing operations through the first eight months of 2014 was $15.5 million, an increase of $9.9 million compared with the same period in 2013. A variety of factors go into that figure, including record-setting Belmont Stakes Day business, earned income from raising the fee NYRA charges for its simulcast signal, and an increase in revenue due to increased admission and seating prices at Saratoga.
NYRA’s overall bottom line looks less rosy when a deferred $25 million tax asset valuation is factored in. That figure is derived from tax credits given to NYRA during years when it lost money. With that figure factored in, NYRA’s overall income of $35.9 million is $15.3 million less than last year’s figure.
With Saratoga enjoying ontrack success in 2014 – attendance was up double digits, and ontrack handle was up 1.9 percent – there has been speculation that next year’s 40-day meet could be extended to eight weeks, with racing five days a week. That topic was not brought up at Monday’s meeting.
Kay did say that he would like to close the Aqueduct backstretch for as long as four months in 2015, coinciding with the end of the Aqueduct spring meet at the end of April. This year, NYRA closed the Aqueduct backstretch for the seven weeks of the Saratoga meet.
Toward that end, NYRA is building one new barn at Belmont and hopes to put in for permits to build more, though Kay admitted that would be a slow process.
“We’d like to be able to close it in April – there are savings we could realize if we could close it earlier – and having more stalls at Belmont would permit us to do that, and that’s the goal,” Kay said.
Kay hinted at possible price increases for next year’s Belmont Stakes. He said NYRA would compare prices for the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Breeders’ Cup “and see what is the right pricing for next year.”
Kay also said he would like NYRA to start selling seats and dining options to the public for next year’s Belmont Stakes as early as December.
Kay also said that NYRA has had discussions with officials from the Long Island Railroad to avoid the chaos that ensued following this year’s Belmont Stakes, where many fans were left waiting for hours for trains following the races.
Kay said the LIRR has already begun developing a plan to better handle the situation next year, including raising and extending the platform and closing a nearby station to house additional dedicated trains for Belmont Park.
Interesting landscape in that one potential buyer is no longer interested in owning/ operating racetracks and the other potential buyer will be approaching 85 years old. I would let Genting operate a four month winter Aqueduct meet. Let Genting renovate what is now the NYRA portion of the facility. Then make it into a truly opulent clubhouse/ horse room. Charge members annual dues, open restaurants/sports bars, charge an unreasonable daily admission, $25 or so, keep the riff raff out. Hopefully the state would allow a consortium of which Genting would be a part operate a few teletheaters throughout the 5 boroughs; make these upscale and charge admission or sell memberships. If the racing department is willing to be creative, they could maintain a decent winter racing program, which basically means full fields. There are a lot of New Jersey and Canadian owners/trainers who lay up for the winter; a lucrative purse structure might lure some of them out of hibernation. There are also a lot of New England horsemen about to be disenfranchised who might appreciate an opportunity to stay in the game.
What ever happened to the 10 million they stole from the bettors. Was that factored into their profits.
Close the Big A. Winterize one of the turf courses at Bel for winter racing. Enclose only a small portion of the grandstand, (avg people in winter would be about 3,000). It all works. Mr Kay, does it hurt to think?
Aqudump is worth $250-500 milion. NY Port Authority will by it tomorrow already has bought land. Aqueduct is done the rest is all lies. they are telling you belmont is 8 miles away. its true but a different universe. Its like South Central and Orange County. .
This fiasco began when Sheldon Silver forced interim Governor Patterson to open the Genting Casino at Aqueduct instead of Belmont - so as to get $ into his home district. All completed despite the fact that NYRA would have made zillions by selling the Aqueduct property before NYS took over. A Racino at Belmont would have done more business and secured Belmont well into the future.
Its one big Royal Scam. The Gov wants the land and they will get the land by saying Aqueduct stinks. More pigoens than people at Aqudump.
Be careful what you wish for, because you may get what you want. Does the NYRA and racing fans really want Aqueduct closed down? I remind my fellow horseplayers that the racing track at Aqueduct is a mile and an eighth, with a winter track of one mile; it is a track uniquely appropriate for year round racing in NY. What does Kay and his boss Cuomu propose to put in its place? Year-round racing at Belmont? OK---and how much is it going to cost to winterize Belmont, a track that is just as drafty and cold in cold weather as Aqueduct is? To me its a bone head idea, and it owes more to Andy Cuomo's scheme to bring in casino gambling to NYS. They should allocate some of the money for purses and put it into renovating tha Aqueduct grandstand.And by the way, I don't want to hear about Genting. If they don't like the set-up at Aqueduct, I'm sure someone else will be happy to take their place. And one more thing---Can we pulease stop hearing about Saratoga. I would wager that most downstate horseplayers could care less about the Spa and would just as soon as have Aqueduct open thruout July, as it used to be.
Dave, C'mon now "attendance was up double digits" (at Saratoga)!!?? really we have no idea what actual attendance was. They gamed the numbers by including all pass holders after the first two weekdays of the meet had attendance of 9,344 and 8,044. And when pass holders went to the track their passes were scanned -- did they get double counted in the attendance levels?
Kay and his team of clowns. His claims of increased guest experience being wonderful is a joke. I guess if you lived in a trailer and only ventured to the local town carnival would you think that anything NYRA offers is a great product. The only good thing going is the racehorses!! Everything else is less than average!!
I began my life as a horse player at Aqueduct and it hurts to know that it has become a dump but, it is what is is. Close it! The card at this year's Belmont Stakes was out of site but the inconveniences were brutal. And it wasn't only the public transportation. For the first time EVER, I couldn't bring in my 35mm camera, the parking fees were outrageous and the reserved seats prices via Ticket something or other, a rip off. There was no control of the reserved seats areas and drunken hooligans were able to sneak in and bother us long suffering horse players. Hope can improve for 2015!