The most innovative new feature this season is the introduction of free Wi-Fi Internet access on the grounds of Saratoga Race Course, beginning on Opening Day. The Wi-Fi network is one of the more technologically advanced systems for mobile on-track wagering in the entire horse racing industry.
“It’s very exciting; all the fans in all the public areas of Saratoga Race Course will have access to the Internet,” said NYRA Director of Communications and Media Relations Dan Silver as he demonstrated on an iPad. “This will also tie into a platform called Fast Bet, which is a United Tote wagering platform so that all customers on track will be able to go get cash cards, put money in the account, and use the Fast Bet Technologies to wager on the races here at Saratoga.”
The Wi-Fi network was installed by the Latham-based Deep Blue Communications, and includes 50 different access points throughout the property designed to support handheld devices, smartphones, tablets or any other Internet-ready mobile device.
“We’ve been building hospitality wireless networks nationwide, and we’re honored to provide NYRA with their first guest-access wagering and Wi-Fi Internet network,” said Rebecca Douglas of Deep Blue Communications.
The equipment set up around the track was manufactured by a company called Ruckus Wireless.
“Now we’re the track with the best horses, the best fans and we’ve got the best wireless company in Deep Blue to install this; I think everyone is going to be very happy when they get here and are able to use their wireless devices,” said Silver.
The wireless Internet technology isn’t the only new improvement to The Spa this summer, with several new vendor options sure to please even the pickiest of visitors. During a guided tour, NYRA’s vice president and director of hospitality and group Sales, Stephen Travers, showed the assembled members of the media just what new cuisine awaits them this season.
“People spend all day here, they need to eat,” said Travers. “It’s a major part of everybody’s day, so you have to put thought and consideration into [dining options] while considering what choices there are, and what people really enjoy.”
For starters, a new craft beer garden will be opening adjacent to the Carousel underneath two open-air tents. Travers acknowledged that there are beer enthusiasts out there who might be tired of the same options each season.
The beer garden will have 12 different beers and each will cost $5 for 12 ounces. There will be several locally brewed options available including Adirondack Bear Naked Ale, Saranac Blueberry Blonde Ale and Olde Saratoga Lager.
The Carousel area has been revamped to include the relocated Hattie’s Chicken Shack and Shirley’s Restaurant which will offer, among other things, the traditional Canadian comfort food, poutine. The popular Tex-Mex burrito chain Moe’s will have a food truck parked inside the race course this season, joining the returning Ben & Jerry’s, Carolina Barbecue and Pies on Wheels.
Restaurant Row, the combination food stand located in the backyard area will be a mix of new and old this season. Returning for 2012 are the Putnam Market and the Old Daley Inn. The new additions include the instantly-recognizable Bettie’s Cakes and their signature cupcakes, the Saratoga after-track hot spot Siro’s and a Miller Express beer vendor.
The Post, which houses a full bar and the wildly popular Shake Shack hamburger stand, will offer a new vendor for the 2012 season as well. El Verano Taqueria’s authentic Mexican fare replaces Blue Smoke and will sit next to the returning Box Frites French fry stand.
Saratoga Race Course opens for its 144th season, opening July 20 at 11 a.m., with first post scheduled for 1 p.m. For more information, visit www.nyra.com or call (518) 584-6200.