Thursday, April 19, 2007

Family Fun at the Racetrack

Earlier this week, Lone Star Park issued a statement:

    The Texas horse racing industry has been a proponent to the installation of Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs) in an effort to improve the racing product at Lone Star Park. However, since the Texas Legislature is comprised of a bunch of ninnies, we have opted to erect bouncy-houses instead.

Okay, I made that up. However, I believe that it is an idea that should come under some serious consideration.

Last Sunday was Family Fun Day at Lone Star Park. There were bounce houses, pony rides, a petting zoo (where the animals were clearly on some kind of hunger strike as they refused to eat the $1 feed that my 5-year-old insisted she needed in order to enjoy the thrill of petting a goat), clowns, face painting, and free passes to Six Flags Over Texas for the first 500 kids. It should be noted at his point that my two kids were 497 and 498, and this was still an hour before the first post. There were also drawings for some cool prizes, like iPods.

When it comes to Family Fun, there is plenty of competition in Texas, especially on a beautiful, spring afternoon when there's a NASCAR race at Texas Motor Speedway or lush fields of bluebonnets that beckon parents to take pictures of Baby Edgar sitting in a field of flowers wearing a silly sailor suit and a full diaper. Attendance at Lone Star Park was 9,006 and there were plenty of families and kids clearly having fun in the picnic area. On track handle was $471,160. Not bad considering that probably one-third of that attendance figure was under the age of 21 and more interested in rolling down the hill by the top of the stretch than actually watching the horses race.

But there are possibilities ...

Family Fun Day was an inexpensive treat for us. It was $2 to park and then free admission with our coupon from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. We were able to bring in a small picnic that consisted of food that I knew my children would actually consume such as bologna sandwiches and juice boxes, therefore, more of our budget could go to more important things, like cold adult beverages and wagering.

It's was a tremendous opportunity to introduce kids to horse racing. I let my 8-year-old select a few horses for me and she was thrilled that they all won, however I had yet to teach her the concept of "chalk" and there really was not some "ton of money we won," as she jubilantly proclaimed after the first race. She even decided to select 4 horses for a dime superfecta box. After examining her selections, I informed her that if her superfecta were to come in, it would be worth about $13,000 and we could well-afford to take that trip to Walt Disneyworld that she's been wanting.

So why not take Family Fun Day one step further? Make it a little bit better? A little more lucrative? Amazingly, I have an idea or two.

1. The Racing Stripes Race Sheet. No need for past performances, nor jockey and trainer statistics. A horse racing sheet strictly for kids. Lists all the races, horses names, horses numbers, and color of the jockey silks. Picks by Scuzz and Buzz. Word Search using names of famous racehorses, like Seabiscuit and Secretariat. Word Jumble, such as BODTAEROT or RDWEEYARBN. Valuable coupons (read: advertisement) to Six Flags or Chuck E. Cheese's. Free to 12 and under.

2. Pari-mutuel Clerk Availability in Family Fun Area. Family waiting in line to have the kids' faces painted? Rule Number One: If you're standing in line, then you're not spending money. Encourage the Over-21 Wagering Dollar on Family Fun Day - a strolling clerk should be accessible for placing wagers while the kids are getting their faces painted or bouncing in the bounce houses or riding ponies. Monitor for odds, payouts, and race replays located next to the Snow Cone booth.

3. Fair Kid Fare. Beer prices are skyrocketing at racetracks across our great nation! But remember, Kids Are Kids. Mom and Dad will resist purchasing a $2.25 bottle of water because Precious is thirsty and will drink approximately two sips of the water before she kicks it over and spills the remainder. Bring on the ultimate Juice Box for 50-cents. Affordable drinks for the kids that leaves you with enough leftover change for the Late Pick-4.

4. Buckle. Buckle the Clown is pure entertainment for the kids by the 7th race. Magic! Fun! The kids won't let him leave! And for something a little special, track handicapper, Rick Lee, can perform as Buckle's crazy clown sidekick, Suspender.

5. Sunscreen Station. Did Horseplayer Mom forget to pack the sunscreen for her little darlings? (By the way, yes she did). The Family Fun Area provides free sunscreen in large pump mayonnaise containers to slather Precious and her siblings so they can enjoy the whole afternoon. 'Tis better to wager $12.99 on an exacta and late Daily Double that spend it on Uncle Buck's SunScreen and Tamale Sauce that can be purchased at the gift shop.

Anyway, Family Fun Day is a great success. Somehow, I just can't imagine my kids having this much fun gathered around some noisy slot machine on a sunny April afternoon ...

Note: Special recognition for those who can solve the Word Jumbles!


Tote Board Brad said...

I'm really impressed with what Lone Star did here. 50 cent juice boxes and free sunscreen? That will keep families out there and make them want to come back again. If you wring them out for every last penny with $5 hot dogs and $4 sodas (Golden Gate Fields, anyone?) many wont come back.

One great thing about the racetrack (even before i got in for free) is that I can watch the races, lose $2 on every single race and still spend a lot less than going to a baseball or football game.

suebroux said...

50 cent juice boxes and free sunscreen ...

Brad, you must have spent a little too much time trying to unscramble the Word Jumbles because that's just my idea; Lone Star park and any other racetrack can happily steal it. As you said, $5 hot dogs and $4 popcorn can really hit families hard. Next weekend the track will have Dollar Days which will attract a gazillion people ($1 beer!) but with crowds like that, I don't think that it is exactly Family Fun. Too much chaos.

BTW, Lone Star had a couple of small bounce houses set up in the picnic area on Saturday. If they actually do that every weekend, I may actually consider bringing the kids more often.

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