More changes at Saratoga Race Course; Dunkin' Donuts to host grand opening event

More changes create extra "elbow room" for track goers.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Director of Hospitality and Group Sales for the New York Racing Association Stephen Travers led a media tour Wednesday morning to highlight some of the design and food and beverage changes at the Saratoga Race Course this season.

Travers and NYRA emphasized the reduced price of beer, which has been cut up to 33 percent, and also of other track staples like popcorn and lemonade.

In response to the Saratogian’s article published on Tuesday that highlighted many of the changes in the food and beverage offerings at the track, Travers pointed out that Jack O’Brien who ran the 22 lemonade carts last year, is not local and is based out of Miami. The kids, however, who staffed the stands were indeed local students.

“We eliminated them so that people have more room and can enjoy their space without feeling forced to buy something with a cart every 10 feet,” Travers said about NYRA’s motive to remove the lemonade stands. “Our five lemonade stands will also staff local employees.”

In addition, several other changes have been made this year to lower prices and create more open space for track patrons.

The Jim Dandy bar was renovated so that the room can now hold nearly 200 people and many waitress stations on the Clubhouse porch were relocated to create more “elbow” room for diners.

The Travers bar was also removed to help ease congestion. Travers said that the menu at Blue Smoke wasn’t “customer friendly” last year and the restaurant will expand its menu to offer customers more variety this year with a variety of boxed fries, or frites. Blue Smoke also added a newly renovated bar on its second level.

Low beer prices created a buzz in the community, but Travers said he does not think lower prices will lead to excessive drinking.

“People do not over drink because it’s cheaper,” Travers said. “They’ll drink what they drink and be delighted it’s cheaper.”

When media representatives asked Travers why NYRA chose to make these new renovations and dining changes Travers only said, “Because it was the right thing to do.”

Dunkin' Donuts to hold ceremonial "first brew" featuring high-profile execs.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The new Dunkin’ Donuts stand at the Saratoga Race Course will celebrate its official grand opening with a ceremonial “first brew” on opening day morning at 11:30.

Feelings in the community about the new Dunkin’ and other food and beverage changes have been mixed. In a story I wrote on Tuesday about NYRA’s decision to remove certain local businesses to enact lower prices, some welcomed the new cheap price of beer and others felt wary about NYRA going in a more “corporate” direction.

For those track goers who haven’t yet had their daily dose of java, perhaps an iced coffee at Dunkin’s “first brew” event will ease some of the nostalgia for the old Carvel soft-serve stand, which formerly occupied DD’s booth near the bandstand.

Jerry Burke, the Dunkin’ Donuts franchisee for the Capital Region, will be running the stand at the “first brew” event celebrating the first time track fans can purchase coffee and breakfast menu items at the Saratoga Race Course. NYRA’s Director of Hospitality and Group Sales Stephen Travers said in the past, visitors could only get coffee at the track if they paid $14.95 for the 7 a.m. “breakfast at the track” package.

In an Ed Lewi press release sent out on Thursday, Mark Bardack announced that Dunkin’ Donuts will also be offering Saratoga-themed DD rechargeable gift cards. On Mondays, cardholders can present their card at the gate and receive $2 off grandstand admission.

Dunkin’ will also offer the in-store “40 Days at Saratoga” sweepstakes where customers have the chance to win one of 40 VIP Clubhouse packages for a day at the track.

NYRA President Charlie Hayward and Dunkin’ Donuts’ Upstate New York Field Marketing Manager Eric Stensland will also attend the “first brew” event tomorrow at 11:30.

The Dunkin’ Donuts booth will open daily at 7 a.m. and will close after the day’s final post.


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