Horse Racing

Belmont Tunnel, Spa Mile Chute NYRA’S . 22 Project List


Construction of vehicular and pedestrian tunnels that cut beneath all three track surfaces at Belmont Park could necessitate holding the fall 2022 meeting at the Aqueduct Raceway, executives said. The New York Racing Association (NYRA) revealed on Friday.

Such a system of tunnels allowing greater access to Belmont’s 55-acre infield could also be the first step in the eventual addition of a synthetic racing surface to Belmont.

Separately, the NYRA plans to rebuild the historic clubhouse slide at Saratoga Racecourse, which will allow one-mile dirt races to be held at the Spa for the first time in decades.

Those projects feature on an extensive list of planned improvements that were given the green light on January 14, when the Franchise Oversight Board (FOB) represents the interests of the properties. NYRA’s state-owned capital expenditure plan approved by the NYRA for 22 years.

The proposal to close Belmont in the fall is not carved in stone.

The issue first surfaced on Friday when Renee Postel, the NYRA’s chief financial officer, said in her joint overview of the proposed operating budget to the FOB that this year’s spending plan “assumes” The fall meeting will take place at the Aqueduct, which the NYRA estimates will have $2 million in negative financial impact. ”

Glen Kozak, NYRA Senior Vice President of Capital Operations and Projects, later explained to FOB that the phase and timing of the tunnel project is a work-in-progress, currently just under way. in the first steps.

“It all depends on product availability, design availability, licensing, and how it impacts our racing operations,” said Kozak. “We have to at least do this before the FOB to see what the plan will be. But there can certainly be tweaks to when this actually happens, where it won’t impede the fall of Belmont. [meet]or, if it’s something that can be done in [2022-23] winter, to allow spring racing back to Belmont. “

Kozak described the construction as follows: “It is in a pedestrian tunnel and also a vehicular tunnel that will go from the northern part of the building, basically from the three-part column. quarter of the main track, below the three current track surfaces, and tethered to the field and available [to use] the current open space out there right now. “

Heavy equipment used to maintain the track surface will be the main use of that tunnel system.

Separately, Kozak said a smaller tunnel providing pedestrian access only to the courtyard could be located near the eighth column, which connects to the front of the grandstand. The drainage system and irrigation equipment can also be upgraded at the same time.

Patrick McKenna, the NYRA’s vice president of communications, said by email that no final decision has yet been made on moving the Belmont fall meeting to the Aqueduct.

“The NYRA is required to make certain assumptions for budgeting purposes and those assumptions have been discussed [Friday] with FOB,” wrote McKenna. “While it is possible that the Belmont fall meeting will proceed at the Aqueduct, no final decision will be made on the fall meeting until we have a clear picture of the permitting and construction process. Inland tunnels at Belmont Park. If the tunnel project does not allow the meeting to take place safely in Belmont, it will be moved to the Aqueduct. “

McKenna wrote that this past November, the NYRA began construction of a retaining wall needed to build the northern tunnel. That part of the project is expected to be completed in the spring.

“In the near term, the domestic unlocking will allow the NYRA to resurface the Belmont track and determine the feasibility of adding synthetic surfaces to the current configuration,” wrote McKenna. “With the significant and permanent reduction of backyard space due to UBS Arena, the courtyard will become a space used by fans during major events. In addition, the NYRA aspires to provide open space to the community around Belmont Park.”

By comparison, the NYRA’s revival of what was once known as the Wilson Chute in Saratoga would be a much easier project to complete. Kozak said he expected it to take eight weeks and be usable at this summer’s meeting.

The original slide, which has been incorporated with the Saratoga track upgrade in 1902, is shown on the old Saratoga track map as a nearly 90 degree carved section where the straight house meets the clubhouse turn , running parallel to Nelson. Main street.

The closest example in racing in North America is the current one-mile slide at Ellis Park, which decades ago was actually modeled after Saratoga’s Wilson Slide.

The NYRA’s mile slide was scrapped after the 1972 season to make way for parking. It was brought back briefly in 1992, but it wasn’t a true slide as a makeshift configuration where mile races started in the first leg.

“Fortunately everything is still intact from when the slide stopped working,” says Kozak. “This is a relatively simple construction process. When we rebuilt the main track, we designed the elevation with the elevation on the outside for a smooth transition from the slide to the main track…

“What has changed from the old slide is that you now have a safety rail on the inside of the track,” continued Kozak. “In addition, we also want to extend the full leg. So basically, the placement of the chute, we’re going to extend that part of the track about five to nine feet toward the harrow. It doesn’t affect anything there other than a camera stand that hasn’t been used for the past six years…

“So we can have our full-size starting gate fit in there; there’s a wider slide so it doesn’t get crowded when it’s your turn. We’ll also change the angle it ties to the turn so that it’ll drop a few degrees from where it’s tied. And now with the new design of the temporary or removable rail coming out of the chute, that’s something we feel will be very, very useful for a racing product…

“We will do it this spring. We’ll start on the outside rail… pull the poles out, set all that up, then [finish it] once the frost comes out of the ground. This is a very simple construction,” said Kozak.

“I don’t believe this is going to be something that is used with multiple races in one day. But it will certainly give us the added benefit of being precise [mile] distance,” said Kozak.

Kozak adds that picnic facilities along the slide (in areas that were used for adjustments last year) will likely be incorporated into the design.

McKenna writes: The trough is supported by the Saratoga Springs Conservancy.

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