09/29/2014 5:38PM

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.

Richard Land More than 1 year ago
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.
MsTBredRacing More than 1 year ago
I love your thinking!! I'd pay more $ to not have to be around the riff raff that have slipped into the Clubhouse!! The New NYRA started letting all rules slide in Saratoga about 5 years ago. Now the Turf Terrace is full of bums! Th standards are gone. They let the dress codes go to hell to fill seats like sardines to make $ but ruin the "guest experience".
riddick More than 1 year ago
yeah it must be bad commoners are there.
MsTBredRacing More than 1 year ago
its called have a little respect. I don't care how much money you have. Dressing well and having class has nothing to do with money if you weren't taught that by now. If you want to dress like the average slob the grandstands and backyard are a fine match. Considering I've worked there, I see how many guests are not coming back season after season. They've let the brutes with no manners in.
riddick More than 1 year ago
respect? nothing wrong with wearing shorts on a hot day! Good for you and your crowd that you like getting dressed. I'm not knocking it. Raise the price of your section, I sit at the other end anyway, makes no difference to me. And I've seen a lot of classless guys dressing well at Toga. you are funny The hunt races in NJ,PA in the spring and fall sound like your crowd
riddick More than 1 year ago
Brutes? I thought that was the average New Yorker.
Peter Murphy More than 1 year ago
Ah yes, Mr. Land likes to use "code words".Has Mr. Land ever spent time at a racetrack? BULLETIN! The track is full of undesirables and always has been. To me, that has always been part of the charm. As far as Genting is concerned, like all casinos, they are in business to siphon off the gambling dollar so they have to get used to the idea that they will have to kick back the money that they have stolen to the people that they have taken it from. As Steve Crist has said, every casino contributes nothing to the surrounding area except for a minuscule number of jobs(btw, how's Atlantic City working out?). The racing industry, coumting the breeding operations, produces more jobs than do the casinos. And as far as pursuing the up-scale bettor, forget it, they are too busy betting on football to buckle down and do the tedious task of hanicapping a horse race. Mr. Land, with all due respect, is merely parroting the line of Genting and Andy Cuomo campaign contributors.
Richard Land More than 1 year ago
Peter We will postpone for the moment the conversation regarding the amount of time I have spent on the grounds, frontside and back, over the last 40 years. Read the opening line of my commentary. The topic here is the privatization of NYRA, which I assume requires a purchaser, a successor. I think the model where one entity will own/operate the entire tarnished empire is not as feasible as it may have been 5 years ago. So lets make like we're up on the roof with Hyman Roth and we're about to get some cake. The NYRA cake is cut up. Genting is already at Ozone Park. They would thoroughly clean, if not renovate the area of the facility which has been neglected by NYRA for two decades. I have no idea what Genting's institutional experience is with pari mutuel wagering, but I am certain that they could find industry experienced decision makers. Lets talk "code words". Yours seem to be "Live Gate", "Runyonesque undesirables," the "sharp smell of manure, spilt beer and ganga," whatever. The reality is whales, software, servers, offtrack, offshore and overseas. The attendance at Belmont the first two Saturdays of the meet was about 2,000; a disappointing 10-12K for an outstanding race card. Now lets talk about the fixing up Aq, even if only for a five or ten year run into oblivion.Sorry to the people who want to shove Aqueduct into Jamaica Bay, I do not think Belmont will not be ready to serve as a downsized winter facility until 2020. $25 admission? To a clean comfortable place with dining options and beverage options? What was I thinking? I was thinking that last Saturday I paid $8 parking and admission, had no attractive dining or beverage options, and had to pay $5 for a bottled sport beverage. All I know from Andrew Cuomo is that he begat Kay and Skorton, two very successfulgentlemen who had no racing experience,who in turn saw the need to hire a Chief Experience Officer.
Michael Jacob More than 1 year ago
What ever happened to the 10 million they stole from the bettors. Was that factored into their profits.
Bruce Epstein More than 1 year ago
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?
Richard More than 1 year ago
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.
Bruce Epstein More than 1 year ago
This is the brightest post I've read in years. Bravo sir.
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Walt Gekko More than 1 year ago
Except I think the Democratic National Committee, wary of ANYTHING that could affect Florida even the slightest in the Presidential election might tell Cuomo NOT to close Aqueduct if the DNC feels it can affect the Breeders in Florida enough to where it could tilt the election. Florida is an extremely volatile state in the Presidential Election and its 29 Electoral votes could easily swing on an issue 99.999% of the country doesn't care about, but the .001% that does tilts the election as what happened in 2000. The DNC remembers vividly what happened in 2000 and if they think closing Aqueduct could tilt the White House towards the Republicans in a razor-thin race like 2000, they likely would tell Cuomo NOT to close Aqueduct out of concern just enough people in Florida would vote Republican to tilt the election.
Richard More than 1 year ago
Surely you're kidding.
Richard Land More than 1 year ago
You have way too much time on your hands. This is one of your best, but not as good as when you said Carson Daly covering Racing on TV would save the sport.
Walt Gekko More than 1 year ago
I just know how volatile Florida REALLY is in the Presidential election: Go back to 2000, when Bush won Florida by 1,500 votes (officially 538, but discovered in an unofficial recount later to be 1,500). An issue like the Florida breeders CAN tilt Florida in an extremely narrow race.
Peter Murphy More than 1 year ago
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.
MsTBredRacing More than 1 year ago
Well said. I enjoy the racing at Aqueduct. At least they can go two turns at less than a mile and a half!! And to be honest they have taken the glamour out of Saratoga. Its like a county fair these days. The clubhouse is full of shorts wearing hicks! Nothing special about it except the horses!!
Peter Applebee More than 1 year ago
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?
MsTBredRacing More than 1 year ago
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!!
Bruce Epstein More than 1 year ago
It's hard to offer an up-scale experience in such a large space. The only first class dining at a track was the Old Big M at track side, clubhouse outdoor dining at Hollywood park. The rest are for middle america.
MsTBredRacing More than 1 year ago
The clubhouses are not large areas. I've been to some very nice stadiums and arenas where the dining experiences were amazing not to mention the seating for the people who are willing to pay for it. Owner/player guest sections and such as well. Wow is all I can say. The clubhouses have been overtaken by slobs. The box seat areas have zero hospitality. In Saratoga they hire people to work who "hate" horse racing!!! I work with them so I know firsthand. Kay and his "passionate employees" garbage!!
riddick More than 1 year ago
wow, thanks lady. guessing you'll snub your nose at me in my shorts and baseball hat. you are a riot. I laughed my A off
Héctor Lebrón More than 1 year ago
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!
Cougar Paisley More than 1 year ago
Funny how Kay only refers to the chaos regarding the LIRR, like all the blame is on the railroad for the Belmont Stakes day. NYRA is still responsible for the public safety of all race track patrons while on their premises. Do you get a rebate with your new ticket and dining options, when a drunkered takes your seat and the track runs out of food and beverage halfway through the race card? Do you get a free flashlight and tire repair service with your parking admission fee in the abyss of a Belmont parking lot? Will the increased admission tickets on Belmont Day pay for more garbage cans and maybe somebody to actually "empty" them? The increasing prices have to fund the salary of NYRA's new Chief Experience Officer. He/her did such a bang up job at this year's Belmont, Kay felt it was worthy of a raise.