OLDSMAR – Fans, horsemen and the environment all stand to prosper when Tampa Bay Downs kicks off its 86th season of live thoroughbred racing Dec. 3, the earliest opening date in track history.

“Once again, we look forward to meeting the challenges of enhancing our live racing product and providing our fans and horsemen the most enjoyable experience possible,” said Vice President and General Manager Peter Berube. “As the economy continues to rebound, we believe we are in position to continue our growth as a premier winter racing destination and multifaceted entertainment complex.”

While trainers and their horses stream onto the backside from tracks across the country for the 92-day meeting, workers are putting the finishing touches on a $1.5-million capital improvements project that will keep Tampa Bay Downs at the forefront of the racing and sports entertainment industries.

Among numerous upgrades, the most noticeable to fans and horsemen will be the introduction of Trakus, the electronic tracking system which displays the exact position and location of each horse on television monitors during the entire race.

Already in place at such major tracks as Churchill Downs, Keeneland and Woodbine in Toronto, the technology system gives serious handicappers an added edge in evaluating horses’ running styles and progress.

“We believe Trakus will be a welcome addition for our regular Tampa Bay Downs customers, occasional visitors and our vast simulcast audience,” Berube said.

Fans will also welcome the addition of 55 energy-efficient, flat-screen televisions to the 400-plus already in place throughout the grandstand and clubhouse. And getting to Tampa Bay Downs is easier than ever, with road access at an all-time high from each direction. The parking area has also been enlarged.

On the structural front, Tampa Bay Downs is in the initial stages of a “green initiative” that may one day result in the facility having a “net-zero impact” on the environment. The improvements in place for the upcoming meeting include a CREE LED lighting system throughout the clubhouse and grandstand and the installation of a Gaco Sil S-20 “Cool Roof” coating system.