07/21/2008 12:00AM

Spa upgrades include suites, food, and TVs


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Air conditioning has finally made its way to Saratoga Race Course. But if you want any of it, it'll cost ya.

The tents which house popular track haunts such as the Paddock Pavilion and At the Rail Pavilion have been upgraded and glass enclosed to allow for air conditioning. The buffet at the Paddock Pavilion costs $37 on the weekdays and $39 on the weekends, while walk-up customers to the Rail Pavilion will pay $67 on weekdays and Sunday and $72 on Saturdays.

As part of the Saratoga Preferred Access program, patrons can pay to watch and wager on the races in a newly created air conditioned hospitality area positioned at the finish line. Last year, this area was located near the horse path leading from the paddock to the track.

A seat in the hospitality area costs $15,000 for the meet and includes dedicated concierge service, parking, golf cart pick-up and drop-off, and other perks such as enhanced food and beverage service. Individual seats in that area, if available, can be purchased for $150 Sundays through Fridays; $250 for non-premium Saturdays; $300 for Alabama Saturday; and $500 for Travers Saturday.

NYRA has added a fifth luxury suite located by the clubhouse turn. The suites hold anywhere from 42 to 72 persons and the costs range from $2,200 to $3,700 per day.

NYRA didn't renew approximately 25 clubhouse boxes and has or will be selling them to horsemen and fans or using them in sponsorship deals. Seasonal box prices that had been $30, $25, and $20 per seat are now $42, $35, and $28 for the meet. Boxes that are sold on a daily basis will cost $100, $85, and $75. The prices vary based on location.

"If someone is committing for a season box, we felt they should be given a volume discount and the season box [prices] will go up next year," NYRA president Charlie Hayward said. "A person coming for the day should pay a higher rate."

Hayward said the decision to take back so many boxes was to enable NYRA to focus "on people that participated either in the form of horse ownership or wagering activity."

For those on a tighter budget, some of the new amenities at Saratoga center around food. NYRA will debut Saratoga Restaurant Row, at which five local restaurants will be selling some of their specialty items ranging from $4 to $7. According Gavin Landry, NYRA's senior vice president of sales and market development, NYRA is waiving its profits on this project and even incurred some infrastructure costs to get this done.

Aside from the air-conditioned units, NYRA has invested $1.1 million in capital improvements for this meet. Included in that is an upgrading of the clubhouse and grandstand plumbing, upgrades of the electrical and lighting, and improved elevator and escalator service. A total of 80 flat-screen televisions have been added throughout the plant.