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Thursday, July 03, 2014

Fan Advisory Council "Piles on" NYRA Over Belmont Day

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.

7 Comments:

Anonymous said...

If NYRA had any sense of humor they would respond with a line from last year's Best Picture: "R-FAC Yourself."

El Angelo said...

Actually, Dance with Fate is a Grade 1 winner (Blue Grass). But your point is well-taken, even though I think it's technically impossible for an American-based 3yo to have had a G1 win on the turf this year. I take more issue with the Graded Stakes Committee making the nee Garden City and Jamaica G1s than the size of the purse of the races.

Robert Finch said...

Whine whine whine people went to the Belmont cause they WANTED to be part of a huge crowd. They wanted to experience that omg moment when 120,000 people all see the Triple Crown hopeful take the lead at the quarter pole. A little logistical maneuvering would be a small price to pay for a shot at that.

Alan Mann said...

El Ang - I was referring to the foreign horses....thought 'Group 1' limits it to them, no? There are actually three US Grade 1 winners among the two races, though two of them, including Dance With Fate, did so on Polytrack.

Figless said...

These are as legit G1 races as you will find for three years old, excepting the KY Derby and Oaks. Certainly more representative than most of the G 1 Ky Derby preps.

There simply aren't that many Group and Grade 1 winning 3yo's, on any surface, at this stage of their careers.

Every Euro runner has won a Group Stake, and two are G1 placed, so not like they are without talent.

Add in the four G1 winning Americans (well, two dead heated, but it counts) and these races are pretty impressive for inaugural events and should only grow in stature from here.

I find them fascinating wagering events and cant wait to celebrate Independence Day at Belmont, especially since I missed Stakes Day. We have a nice little group going out there, quite interested to see the attendance.

Figless said...

The RFAC complaints (and especially suggestions) are over the top but agree with their premise, it seems NYRA did nothing for the 70k fans that didn't spend the money on seats.

From what I read they provided zero entertainment in the backyard, compared to prior years when they at least had decent cover bands back there to help you pass the time. In fact the stage where those bands play instead hosted a nasal strip promotion.

They run out of food and beverage EVERY year, status quo.

Instead of enhancing the experience they actually limit the concession choice, providing only 3-4 beer choices (Warm after 2pm as they run out ice). And two of the are those horrible 24 ounce cans that are hotter than soup unless you chug the contents.

The bathrooms go co-ed and become wading pools EVERY year, making porto-potties the superior option.

The ushers do their job for the first few races, then disappear when the big event occurs turning the seating area into a mosh pit.

I could go on, but suffice it to say the CXO has a lot on their plate, and they need to start with basic amenities for the loyal fans that return year after year, not those that jump on the band wagon when a TC is on the line.

Figless said...

Now that I actually read their letter the only thing I disagree with is their complaint about food and beverage prices. As stated in the blog, no other venue would LOWER prices.

However, I have always felt the security measures were over the top and its a fair point that if patrons are not allowed to bring food and water to the event, it seems egregious to over charge them for basic sustenance, especially water.

RFAC's point about the unintelligible public address system is well taken. I have been complaining about this for years, but I never considered its importance in case of emergency.