Edited Tampa Bay Downs Release — Racing fans will be allowed back on track with racing returns on November 25.
The 90-day meeting proper runs through May 2, followed by the annual Summer Festival of Racing on June 30 and July 1. Tampa Bay Downs will race most Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, adding Sundays starting Dec. 20 and also racing Thursday, Dec. 24.
In the age of the COVID-19 pandemic, customer health and safety are the track’s foremost concerns. Tampa Bay Downs, which has allowed on-track simulcast wagering since July 2 and Silks Poker Room play since mid-June, has formulated plans to permit spectators for its 2020-2021 Thoroughbred meeting, beginning with the Opening Day racing card on Nov. 25.
For the foreseeable future, fans will be required to wear masks both inside and outside the facility, unless they are eating or drinking.
Various measures have been established to ensure social distancing, including:
· The creation of more outdoor, private spaces for small groups
· A limited number of benches on the apron of the Grandstand, with increased spacing
· Computer-generated, socially distanced Grandstand seating
· A reduction in box seating, from eight to six seats per box
Those changes, and many others, are designed to provide patrons with a high level of comfort and security when they arrive for an afternoon of Thoroughbred racing during the track’s 95th anniversary season.
Tampa Bay Downs has developed a website for fans to reserve seating that provides social distancing. The cost is $5 per seat and must be paid in advance. To purchase seats through the website, go to www.tbdseats.com
The track raced without spectators last season from March 17 through the annual two-day Summer Festival of Racing, generating income and purses for horsemen and horsewomen through account wagering.
Peter Berube, the track’s Vice President-General Manager, expressed optimism that a shared sense of responsibility and respect among track employees, horsemen, jockeys and fans will enable spectators to attend all season.
“We understand that many of our patrons would like to see a return to pre-Coronavirus status, while many others are concerned about venturing outside their homes while the pandemic continues to pose a threat,” Berube said.
“We believe it is important to listen to and respect all viewpoints, but our biggest duty is doing everything possible to keep our customers and employees healthy. Without fans at the track, racing loses some of its excitement and charm, and our on-track business suffers.”
Tampa Bay Downs has also implemented rules to protect jockeys. Riders, jockey room staff, starting gate personnel, etc., will undergo rapid COVID testing prior to their arrival, with twice-weekly testing from there on. No newcomers will be allowed without a negative test, and jockeys will be restricted to their designated areas on race days and required to leave the room following their last ride of the day.
Other elements of the track’s COVID-19 protocol include increasing the number of hand-sanitizing stations throughout the facility; ongoing cleaning and sterilizing of high-touch surfaces and areas; socially distanced markers on the floors; providing disinfecting wipes next to wagering machines, replay TVs and high-touch machines; and installing Plexiglas partitions between employees and customers at the Customer Service desk, program windows, concession stands and Gift Shop.
Each aspect of the track’s COVID-19 protocol is designed to train the spotlight where it belongs: on the horses, jockeys and trainers who have helped make Tampa Bay Downs one of the sport’s most popular wagering signals during the winter and early spring.