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Public forum shines light on proposed Saratoga Race Course upgrades

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Albany/HV: Public forum shines light on proposed Saratoga Race Course upgrades
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As the community strides toward the upcoming Saratoga Race Course meet that will celebrate the track's history, many are still focused on its future. As YNN's Matt Hunter reports, on Tuesday, the public got another look and at potential plans to bring the Spa into the 21st century.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – The late sportswriter Red Smith may have said it best: "To get to Saratoga from New York City, drive north 175 miles, turn left on Union Avenue and go back 100 years in time."

Decades later, those words still ring true.

"Saratoga's history is probably unparalleled in the world," said Turnberry Consulting founder Paul Roberts, who’s worked with racetracks all over the world.

On the dawn of the track's 150th anniversary, Roberts and New York Racing Association (NYRA) executives are working on modernizing the nation's oldest active sporting venue. On Tuesday in Saratoga, he provided an update of their work.

"If you're seeking to either adjust or change or improve Saratoga to make it fit for modern activities, that's a very significant burden to try and deal with and something we're trying to deal with very carefully," Roberts said.

"We need to preserve the fabric of Saratoga and that's probably the main focus of this whole project," NYRA Vice President of Corporate Development David O’Rourke said.

While the plans have changed slightly from Roberts' last public presentation in 2011, the proposals include improving and increasing the number of barns and backstretch dorms, enhancing and potentially expanding the clubhouse, as well as redesigning the backyard area.

"In the long-term, we'd like to do many of these projects and as we work with our new CEO and the community, we're going to phase in," O’Rourke said.

With no CEO in place, NYRA has not publicly offered a timeline or said which individual projects are likely to occur and which will be scrapped.

One thing all of the stakeholders seem to agree on, the need of finding the right balance between old and new.

"I think we can coexist,” Saratoga Springs Mayor Scott Johnson said. “There's a way of preserving something, enhancing something without ruining the original appearance and function of something."

"I feel very confident that they are committed to ensuring Saratoga remains a jewel in the world," Roberts said.

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