That’s because I’m not out at the track that much anymore.
In years past, there was always time to go to venture out to Lone Star Park a couple of days a week – swing by on Thursday night after work, or devote my Saturday to the entire card with a smattering of intriguing races on simulcast. I had my favorite pari-mutuel clerks, favorite seating areas, favorite refreshments. I had a variety of acquaintances amongst the loyal horseplayers that created a wonderful sense of camaraderie.
But things change.
Lone Star Park raised the price of admission. The cost of a racing program increased. Food and beverage prices increased. Just to "swing by the track for a couple of races" was costing me more money before I placed my first wager. My favorite pari-mutuel clerk retired. Even the casual friendliness that I had enjoyed had soured as I had the misfortune of receiving some unwanted / unpleasant remarks from annoying buffoons that I would’ve punched had I been a guy. Well, that’s moot because I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t have been the recipient of such talk if I had been a guy.
And life changed at home. The girls had more activities. I picked up weekend shifts at the lab. My husband embarked on a landscaping project that required my assistance. It soon became more desirable to spend my Saturdays putting in a garden walkway and tearing out juniper bushes than going to the racetrack.
Lone Star Park is turning into a lazy boyfriend. And judging by declining attendance and handle, I’m not the only one who’s getting turned off.
Here’s a tidbit of information: On July 3 – 4, Lone Star Park’s Stars and Stripes Fireworks Celebration had attendance figures of 15,000 to 20,000 people but could barely muster an on-track handle of $400,000. What does that tell us? That there were lots of families and kids, and they generally don’t bet. Similar numbers pop-up for concerts that appeal to the younger generation; an affordable concert venue but most of the crowd doesn’t contribute to on-track handle because (1) they’re too young, and (2) they’re not horseplayers.
It’s business as usual. It seems there’s little effort on the track’s behalf to disseminate racing information or impending events. Nothing new. Nothing innovative. Nothing that entices new horseplayers nor retains existing ones. Isn’t there anybody coming up with new ideas? Churchill Downs is figuring it out. Their creative "Downs After Dark" was a raging success, and it attracted the type of clientele that contributes to handle. Churchill Downs is incredibly proactive spreading press releases and "barn talk" and photos and racing notes. I go out to the Lone Star Park website to look for track news and it’s paltry – there’s a few measly photos from the 2008 Hat Contest on Derby Day. Yippee.
Perhaps there is a feeling of malaise amongst track management, being of the fact that they’re Magna and the racetrack license and operation is on the auction block. If there is apathy, sadly there’s a trickle-down effect.
It doesn’t help either that horsemen, frustrated with sagging purses in Texas, keep threatening to pack up their stables and race their horses in exotic slot-supplemented locales, like Louisiana Downs or Zia Park. I’m not a fan of slot machines and I don’t know any fellow horseplayer who’s thrilled about the notion of adding slots at the racetrack but if it makes the horsemen happy, I guess I’ll have to support it. But I continue to wish and hope for a better alternative.
Yesterday, the Professor posted,
Racetracks are faced with the unique challenge of entertaining people over a period of four hours while most of them are losing their money. Tracks can accomplish that only if they provide a comfortable setting and only by creating an unusual and exciting experience and, of course, by offering bargains.
Dollar Day at Lone Star Park is July 11th. The previous Dollar Day on April 25th had an attendance of 16,389 and an on-track handle of $710,590. What does that tell us? Well, a dollar admission, dollar program, dollar beer ... I can afford to go and take my friends and family. And I can afford to bet.