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Saratoga unveils track improvements

Two days before opening day at the Saratoga Racetrack, NYRA officials showed off improvements made for this year and talked about finances.

CEO and President Chris Kay said NYRA has three main goals this year, to improve the experience for guests, improve the quality of the races and to develop a sustainable business plan.

This year, general admission is going up at the track. Grandstand tickets will be $5 instead of $3. Clubhouse tickets will be $8 instead of $5. Season passes have decreased in price. A grandstand season pass is now $30. A clubhouse season pass is now $50.

NYRA said its season ticket price sales have jumped up. Last year NYRA sold about 1,400 season passes. So far this year, it has sold more than 4,630. One track guest told CBS 6 she bought a season pass because it made more sense financially with general admission going up.

"You pay far more for a hotel room, you pay far more for your dinner at night than you do for the ticket to come in and enjoy the full day," said Kay.

He said he doesn't think the price change will impact attendance. He said Wednesday that prices haven't gone up since 2005, but costs for the track have.

Kay said that for thirteen years, NYRA operated in a deficit, including 2013. The goal is to turn that around. Ticket costs are a fraction of the solution.

"What we did last November was to try to look at our business and say how can we cut certain costs and increase certain revenue," he said.

He said NYRA cut jobs and negotiated a tough contract with simulcast to try and cut costs. To boost revenue, he said NYRA is focused on creating bigger events.

"We're going to stay with the theme of trying to create big days and get people out here and handle more money and put our best foot forward on those big days," said Martin Panza, Senior Vice President of Racing Operations for NYRA.

Panza said NYRA is also focusing on fewer races, but a larger field. It's working to make the races better. A new safety official has been hired to focus on the horses and much sure all the rules are being followed and that the equine athletes are being well cared for.

Kay said that moving forward, the goal is to create a business plan where racino money is only used to grow business.

He said that he knows the changes, may not pay off right away. He said the plan to have fewer races, but bigger races, may mean less revenue. But he said NYRA expects to have a budget surplus in 2014 and 2015.

NYRA has also made several upgrades at the track for guest.

Kay said NYRA has installed hundreds of new high definition TV's so people can see the races and the horses better. He said it cost about $2 million, but he said track visitors asked for the upgrade.

"I said what can we do to make it better? And the number one answer was, 'well these TV sets are a bit old,'" said Kay.

NYRA also installed a new audio system and more wi-fi. It expanded the children's play area and added 100 new picnic tables.

Alongside the track, NYRA said it installed new high definition video boards and expanded the winner's circle.
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