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Oh, SmAlbany!

Daily posts and occasional longer essays about politics, culture, and life in the Capital Region...updated M-F, midmorning

"I write this not as a booster of Albany, which I am, nor an apologist for the city, which I sometimes am, but rather as a person whose imagination has become fused with a single place, and in that place finds all the elements that a man ever needs..." -W. Kennedy, from O Albany!

'Toga wrap-up

Bag it, Tag it, Send it to the butcher: Another 'toga summer has come to an end. Overall, it looks like the Saratoga Race Course was down a bit this year. Overall attendance this year was down 3%, but on-track handle was up overall. A quick glance through the TU today will give you a multitude of good and not-so-good expalantions for this: Tim Wilkin thinks they should bag the final week of the season from now on and end the meet Travers weekend:
Keep the meet at six weeks but start a week earlier and end on the Monday after the Travers.That way, there are two days of racing left following the biggest race of the summer. And everyone goes home with that Travers high.

During the final week, some track restaurants closed, a lot of the help went back to school. Box seats were empty.It just seemed like the Summer Place to Be wasn't that. Saratoga should not be running races in September. That's when people are putting the covers on the swimming pools, sharpening the snow shovels, buying the school clothes for the kids.

Well said. The cap region section of the paper is blaming high gas prices:

High gas prices overwhelmed all other factors and brought attendance down, said Bill Nader, senior vice president of NYRA. "I thought about this a lot. Short-distance travelers still came, but those on the fringe may have come less frequently," Nader said. Increased ticket prices on Travers Day and a constant spotlight on NYRA's legal woes did not affect the numbers, Nader said. "Gasoline is a real tangible variable in the decision-making process. People can relate to that," Nader said.

I guess so. But wouldn't high gas prices reduce attendance and reduce the on-track handle? I assume that even people who do manage to come to the track figure real tangible variables into their expenses, no? [Shouldn't all this be another gas non-story from WNYT? -ed. You'd think so, but instead their running this insightful anti-conventional wisdom gas story...] I feel like "high gas prices" have become the "el nino" of 2005 - just blame anything that happens on it.

Of course, if they didn't move the Hopeful to Travers Day, they might have been able to cut down on post-Travers blues, which put an even greater than usual sag in attendance the last week:

Post-Travers malaise is a Saratoga standard, as top-shelf thoroughbreds and their owners leave town. Weary turf writers start counting the days to their departures.

On Monday, with just 21 reservations for the Carousel patio, a space that normally seats 600 to 800, track concession operator Centerplate stopped service and shifted diners to six other restaurants, regional vice president Mike Billows said.That meant early dismissal for a handful of Centerplate's 750 track employees. Bartenders staffed trackside taps alone rather than in pairs.

"It's been dead all meet," moaned one longtime bartender who asked that his name be withheld.

No job at 'toga is unaffected post-travers:
Low numbers didn't help bathroom attendants. No people, no tips, said Gladys Frere, a ladies room assistant for 26 years.
I doubt it helped that they raised admission prices for Travers Day, although it probably didn't have that much of an effect.

As usual, the track season went pretty smoothly. Things did get off to a bad start when the power went out opening day, costing NYRA some rediculous amount of lost on-track handle. But the track was pretty good - again, as usual - at quickly implementing patron suggestions when things did get rediculous. This year's key headache - the blanket day fiasco - will be alleviated next year by an EZ-Pass lane for patrons who don't want to spin. This was directly suggested jus weeks ago in a letter to the TU. Nice job, SRC.

The downtown scene was as alive as ever, although many people did note that the "trashiness" level had increased a notch over past years. I didn't mind. The revitalization of the IceHouse was a pleasant surprise, i suppose.

Ah, Saratoga. You did it again. We'll see you next year.

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