But Christopher Kay, the chief executive officer of the New York Racing Association, doesn't want to accept that as the new normal.
took the helm of NYRA
in July, just in time to spend the summer at Saratoga, the nation's most successful track, packed with large, enthusiastic crowds six days a week.
But when NYRA
moved its operations downstate after Labor Day, Kay
saw what the sport looks like most of the year.
was hired after NYRA
had been rocked by controversies and scandals and its CEO deposed.
talks about racing, he
uses language he
probably employed in discussing visitors to Universal's theme parks.
"What I want to do is provide an enhanced guest experience," Kay
"We're stressing the importance of engagements with our guests."
believes that NYRA
can do an even better job at Saratoga, and he
believes that he
can revitalize Belmont - by treating customers better, staging special events, offering better food and arranging the seating to eliminate the mausoleum feeling.
will not succeed in transforming Belmont, but can be forgiven for being unrealistic, because he
is a newcomer to the sport and even most industry veterans don't understand the dynamics of on-track business vs. off-track business.
Tracks should focus on improving their websites and their own betting sites. (Kay understands this, and developing the NYRA Rewards wagering platform is one of his top priorities, though the project has been bogged down in typical New York red tape.) Tracks should look for ways to communicate important information - such as late changes and scratches - to customers who are in no position to hear announcements on the public-address system. (E-mail and text alerts, perhaps?)
executives should understand the changes in customers' betting habits and explain them to the media and the public, in order to dispel the notion that diminished live attendance means that the sport is dying.
When Chris Kay walks through a barren Belmont grandstand, he
should be thinking, "We've got a great crowd today; they're just not in our seats."
Christopher Kay was the CEO of Toys R' Us and he does understand the importance of the Guest, that is very big push in the Toys R' Us stores, that return business and always making sure that the Guest is made to fell they are important. let's hope he can bring that magic to famed Belmont Park and get those stands filled once again instead of having people stay at home and bet on-line so as not to deal with bad Guest service that seems to be a big part of racing facilities these days.