Locals hope to preserve Saratoga’s character after race course changes proposed

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Saratogians hope to hold on to the city’s historic atmosphere after changes are proposed to the Saratoga Race Course.

The Saratoga Race Course is considered the oldest sporting venue in the country. For decades, it has gone virtually untouched.

But that could soon change as the New York Racing Association has proposed some changes and updates to the track.

While many Saratoga regulars are optimistic and encouraging of the changes, they still want to make sure the historic atmosphere is preserved.

“I love Saratoga,” Joy King said. “I love the track. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

King is a fifth generation Saratogian. She has worked her summers at the track since she was 14 years old. She’s in love with the people, the racing, and the unique atmosphere that the Saratoga Race Course offers.

“That’s why the people come is for the atmosphere at Saratoga Springs,” she said.

King is one of many who don’t want the atmosphere ruined by modifications.

“That’s what we can’t risk,” she said. “Can’t risk it at all.”

NYRA has proposed updates to the grandstand and carousel. Also, new buildings and additions could go up throughout the grounds, including the “At the Rail Building” which would serve the most distinguished guests and would be a new site near the finish line.

“I think they do need to make improvements, but I think they need to maintain those aspects of Saratoga that make it unique,” Saratoga Springs Design Review Committee Chairman Steven Rowland said.

The design committee oversees historic districts and changes.

“Obviously, one of the most historic areas of the city is the race track,” he said.

Rowland believes any change to the atmosphere could impact visitors’ decisions to come to the track meaning possible revenue for the state and city could be at risk.

“Because that’s why people come here from far away and spend a week here rather than just weekends,” he explained.

Currently, the state’s Franchise Oversight Board is gathering public comment and working with consulting firms to draft plans. King just hopes Saratoga’s character is preserved.

“Even though some of the things do need updating, they are in character and they are in line with what Saratoga is,” she said.

The state is taking written comments until June 15. A timetable has not been set for when detailed plans will be released; however, modifications are expected to cost over $100 million and would take ten years to complete once ground is broken.

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