Fair Meadows Racetrack To Receive Upgrade
By: D. Ray Tuttle The Journal Record January 15, 2015

TULSA - Fair Meadows racetrack is updating its facility, re-creating a demolished restaurant and bar plus adding office space, an Expo Square official said. It is the first renovation in 20 years, said Amanda Blair, Expo Square chief operating officer.
Work started in December, when crews with DT Demolition removed the north section of the grandstands, Blair said. The project cost $41,615.

"The demolition took down the old racing offices and what used to be Winning Colors was gutted," Blair said. Officials have budgeted $50,000 to rebuild Winnings Colors, which had been a restaurant and bar. In addition, crews will add office space for the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission, Blair said. That work is expected to be completed in two months. Also, Expo Square officials will oversee the updating of the simulcast facility, Blair said. The $144,000 project will include the installation of new televisions and fresh paint, among other things, Blair said.That project will be completed in time for live racing, which begins June 4. Fair Meadows collects $2 million annually from a compact with area tribes.

In exchange for the cash, Fair Meadows' management agrees not to install gaming machines. Also, the track must host at least 400 live races during June and July."We are always looking at the bottom line, so we do the best thing for the community," Blair said. "We have actually seen an increase in betting in the past year."Simply put, the renovation was needed to make the facility more attractive, Blair said."We knew we needed to step up our game," Blair said. Competition is growing for entertainment dollars.The rise of casino gaming, both in northeast Oklahoma and nationally, is squeezing the horse racing industry, said a spokesman for a racing trade association. There is pressure to provide modern facilities, especially in markets where racetracks are competing with casinos for wagering dollars, said James J. Mulvihill, director of media and industry relations with the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.

Attendance and the amount of money wagered the past two years has been flat, Mulvihill said, citing statistics from the jockeyclub website. "However, we continue to see strong growth in the major events like the Triple Crown races and the Breeders' Cup, which tells us that when we put our best foot forward there is a huge appetite for top-quality racing," Mulvihill said. Blair agreed that attendance spikes at the Fair Meadows simulcast facility during the Triple Crown, which runs from the first Saturday in May through the first Saturday in June.Attendance during the week averages about 50 people, Blair said. "Weekends, (attendance) is up to about 300," Blair said. "But during the Triple Crown there are 1,000 people here."It had been six years since the rest of the Expo Square facilities were restored, so officials felt changes at Fair Meadows were overdue, Blair said.

Beginning in 1999, Expo Square officials began spending more than $21 million to build a livestock arena, renovate the Pavilion and beef up the horse and cattle facilities, among other things. The work was completed in 2008. Tulsa officials have been convinced the changes were needed, but Mulvihill said on-site amenities aren't everything for racetracks. "It's also important to invest in video production, having a high-definition signal, offering enhanced graphics and data to distinguish themselves," Mulvihill said. Every market is different, probably more so in horse racing than other sports, Mulvihill said. "And, there really is no formula for success," Mulvihill said. "Some tracks might need to invest more in their facility, but others that don't thrive on live attendance might be better off investing in their video production or new barns or any number of things that can improve the product."

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