Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Raise High, the Prices, New Executive
There’s been a whole lot of talk, much of it negative, about the price increases that the New York Racing Association plans on implementing for admission. So much of the criticism is so banal, so short sighted, so “in the service of fans”, that people are losing their minds over $2.
Many of you know, but here’s the back story: the price of general admission for Saratoga and Belmont will go from $3 to $5 and the clubhouse prices will go from $5 to $8, barely more than a medium cup of coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts.
Comment writers, media folk, and columnists are about as radioactive on this as Chernobyl. You’d think this price hike was a climb up Everest when it’s barely a walk out to the mailbox.
If $2 makes the choice of whether to come to the track or not, then frankly NYRA doesn’t want that customer anyway. That customer, clamoring over $2, probably doesn’t bet much, probably sits around all day with the concessions they carried in, and is likely the person who complains the most about amenities.
Trim the weeds. Get rid of these folks; that’s the message, that’s the undercurrent. They’re high maintenance at too high a cost. I’ve seen enough un-ironic mullets at the racetrack. Give the college students a table and allow them to bring in beer and all you’ve done is create the most pristine beer pong tournament this side of UMass.
Jeff Scott, the only racing writer for the Saratogian worth reading, cited an email from a patron who said, “With admission, the costly Daily Racing Form, Post Parade and such, the little guy is 20 dollars behind after going through the turnstile."
Daily Racing Form: Print it at home for $3 per card.
Post Parade: This is stupid and you shouldn’t buy it.
People are so easily insulted these days. Ready to be insulted.
Proven bettors are the ones who deserve a break at the gate. There’s no reason why a NYRA Rewards member can’t be granted free admission, so long as they have a record of actually playing the races. This is an easy solution and won’t alienate the three dozen people still playing the races.
But attendance trended down! How can you possibly expect to grow fans?!
My solution to this is to only race three days a week, up admission 10 times and guarantee, as humanly possible, the safety of the horses. But this would never fly. As for growing fans? Make the ones you have happy. Then they'll recruit from there.
Can you imagine the draw of a three-day racing weekend at Saratoga? Oh, man, my Spidey sense is tingling at the thought. Cut the piddly stuff. Make it Ascot. Make it Meydan. Make it the Breeders’ Cup every weekend. Make it the Saratoga of old. If horse racing has taught us anything in the past 10 to 20 years, it’s that less is more.
It’s no longer special if I can go every day. It’s not special if I can get in for $3. What experience can I expect for $3? Exactly, the one we’re already getting and, subsequently, deserve.
Upping the price of admission is a bold move at a time that screams the opposite. There’s a stance in retail that when you put things on clearance you knock a $50 item down to, say, $30 and see if it leaves. Doesn’t leave? Knock it down to $20. Still there? $10. Customers will hold out when they see this trend. They see you have no respect for the price tag, no respect for the product.
NYRA stands to scrape in $15,000 to $20,000 extra right off the top per day at Saratoga. I’d like to think they’ll use this cash to make the experience a $5-experience, not a $3 one. I’d love to see a dress code. I’d love to see three days of racing with 12 Grade 1s, then four days to recoup to address the facility with improvements for the next weekend. I’d like to see this money broadcast, not paid out as bonuses to the circle of trust.
Christoper Kay, NYRA’s CEO, has held the position for five months. People seem to be raking him over the coals for not improving the guest conditions yet. Give the man some time. Per capita spending is the goal. He’ll take 12,000 people spending $150 each over 25,000 patrons doing nothing but flushing the toilets all day long.
Look on the bright side, when it comes to this game, we really have nowhere to go but up, if only we’d get car’s starter fixed.