NYRA has hired a 'Chief Experience Officer,' and for an organization that was supposed to be watching its payroll, it sure has a lot of Chiefs. There's the Chief Executive Officer, the Chief Compliance Officer, the Chief Financial Officer, the Chief Information Officer, and now this. (And of course there's the plain old Chief, though he seems to have stayed down at Gulfstream for now.) As well as a new General Counsel whose hiring was also announced yesterday.
The new "CXO" is one Lynn LaRocca, a former Sr VP (of which there are a lot at NYRA too) of marketing at Modell's who has no experience in racing.
As senior vice president and CXO, LaRocca will be responsible for all aspects of the relationship between NYRA and its guests, both current and future. She will oversee NYRA programs that serve on-premise, off-track and on-line guests as well as developing partnerships with those in the racing industry, sponsors, corporate and governmental entities and service providers. NYRA's sales, marketing, event planning, guest services, customer relations management and communications departments will be under her purveyance.Funny that the hiring should come at this time, because I haven't been particularly happy with my recent X-perience at Belmont. And it's not as much that there's been no wireless in the Belmont backyard for at least the last two weeks - fortunately for me, my iPad is equipped with cellular service, so I could deal with that - as the fact that the much-touted "hospitality" at the track has been rather non-existent. That has been the buzzword for CEO Chris Kay. And I did note here that there were many smiling faces available to direct and assist customers at the Wood Memorial at the Big A.
In the hiring of LaRocca, NYRA joins the health-care industry and several other customer-centric organizations in bringing in a CXO who will use new technologies and analytics to understand what guests want and then meeting, and exceeding, those needs. [NYRA Press Release]
However, on Saturday, and then again on Monday, I searched far and wide for somebody to report the wireless issue to, and, with the exception of a woman at the information/binoculars stand who reacted blankly to my query, came up totally empty. I walked all around the backyard area - nothing. Inside the grandstand - nobody. All around the clubhouse, nope. In a place that was supposed to now be so hospitable, I was feeling rather neglected. Finally, on Monday, I sent a Tweet to @TheNYRA handle, and later got a response that: "2 of 4 backyard access points were down for maintenance, but will be back on soon. Sorry for the inconvenience!"
So Ms. LaRocca may want to put aside, for now, her new technologies and analytics and just put some boots on the ground to help fulfill the commitment to customer service about which Mr. Kay has spoken so forcefully since he came aboard....and not just on big racing days. Because there was little of it that I could see over the weekend.
On the positive side though, been meaning to mention that the closure of the grandstand that seemed so ominous over the winter has not come to pass in any meaningful way that I can see. Sure, there is less grandstand seating available, but the seats are open, contrary to what we'd read. And there seems to be plenty of it for all but one day out of the season, on which the rest of the plant will magically come back to life for the day. Concessions are closed on the upper floors, but open on the ground level. And there are betting machines available throughout. So I'm not really sure what the fuss was about. Don't know if they changed their plans, or if the fuss was just people like me overreacting to an announcement that wasn't really very clear in the first place about what we would find. One thing is for sure however - it costs more to get into Belmont, and one gets less in return. Including, at least this past weekend, customer service.