07/15/2008 11:00PM

Sam Houston hopes concertgoers become fans

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Sam Houston Race Park in Houston drew 70,000 patrons from July 3-6 for a combination of Quarter Horse racing, fireworks, and concerts led by Willie Nelson's Family Picnic. The track's attendance for racing and a fireworks program on the Fourth of July topped 32,000, up 15 percent from 2007.

Sam Houston has constructed a new amphitheater on the north end of its infield called The Showgrounds. It has a capacity of 15,000, said Gina Rotolo, spokeswoman for Sam Houston. The track has a number of concerts lined up for the new outdoor facility, ranging from rapper Snoop Dogg on July 30 to country artist Clint Black on Aug. 9.

The concert venue is a way to maximize Sam Houston's 300-acre facility, said Rotolo. Along those lines, Sam Houston has introduced a branding campaign called "Let's Make Things Interesting." The campaign's goal is to make Sam Houston an entertainment destination, with racing, concerts, and special events like skateboarder Tony Hawk's extreme sporting exhibition on Sunday.

Concert ticket holders will get free general admission to live racing at Sam Houston.

"We aim to introduce our live music audience to our live racing product by offering guests a reasonably priced concert that will not only allow them to see some of the top country music acts, but also provide them admission to the live racing events on the same night," said Andrea Young, chief operating officer of Sam Houston.