James Odato reports on the Capitol Confidential blog on the letter sent to NYRA by the NYS Racing Fan Advisory Council complaining about Belmont day. For one thing, and once again, why is Odato writing about this on a blog otherwise almost exclusively devoted to state politics? Would he have reported on the letter if it was complimenting NYRA for doing a great job? (Then again, would the Racing Fan Advisory Council - a group sorely in need of an acronym so let's call them RFAC - have written such a letter in the first place?)
The letter recounts all of the woes of that day, and says that they do so "not in an effort to 'pile on,'" though that's exactly how it comes across. However, NYRA has no one to blame but themselves for that; as bad as Belmont day was botched, they have similarly botched the aftermath by failing to have Chris Kay and/or other senior executives address it in a serious way. It was left to poor Jon Forbes of the communications department to act as a "NYRA spokesman" and tell Odato that no, they didn't actually run out of food, it just took a really really long time to replenish some vendors out in the grandstand and backyard (and surely not in the VIP areas in the clubhouse). Forbes also gives us some stats to suggest that they did in fact have more concessions open than in previous Triple Crown years, which raises the question of exactly how many more people than the announced attendance were actually there.
The RFAC then goes on to undermine their letter by citing this "key recommendation" from their 2012 Report (capital letter is theirs) as being amongst those that could have helped avoid many of the problems if only NYRA had listened to them:
The experience should be improved by lowering the prices of food, beverages and souvenirs, as opposed to raising prices for such items.Oh yeah, they'll do that. Name me one other venue in any sport or any entertainment event of any kind that lowers their concession prices on a big day. If you want people to take you seriously, then come up with serious suggestions. Besides, the concession prices were hardly out of line the way things are these days, and exactly how would the problems of long lines and delayed supplies have been addressed if beer was a couple of bucks cheaper?
The letter also notes that "NYRA obviously spent significant funds to hire various entertainers, including LL Cool J, Dee Roscioli, Bernie Williams, and Frank Sinatra Jr., to provide brief performances," and suggests that the money could have been better spent otherwise. For one thing, I highly doubt that they had to pay that group of B-listers (at best) enough for those brief performances to have made a real difference. Furthermore, maybe if they had spent more money to bring top shelf entertainment (as was suggested would be the case when the whole silly BIG Belmont day idea was announced), and figured out some place for them to perform where people who hadn't spent a lot of money to sit in seats could have actually seen them, then maybe they would have been distracted and not as interested in eating or drinking.
In those ways, the letter belies the grand sense of self-importance with which the RFAC goes on to virtually demand that Kay and Chief Experience Officer Lynn LaRocca attend a forum to be held on an unspecified day at Saratoga. Given the way that NYRA has responded to the outcry about Belmont day thus far, I wouldn't hold my breath if I was them.
- It's the 4th of July weekend coming up, and what better way to celebrate the anniversary of the nation's independence than to hold a Stars and Stripes Festival (on the 5th) highlighted by two faux Grade 1 turf invitationals featuring a bunch of B-list foreign runners? Not a Group 1 winner amongst them. Now that's $2.25 million that could have been better spent enhancing the fan experience on Belmont day.