Earlier this year, Paul Roberts and Isabelle Taylor published Racecourse Architecture, highlighting the world’s most beautiful and luxurious racecourses, among them Happy Valley in Hong Kong, Ascot in England, and Meydan in Dubai. In the book and in Roberts’ presentations on the subject, he suggests that as pressure for gambling dollars become more intense, the quality of racetracks’ facilities and amenities will become more important.
“It’s not a coincidence,” he said in an interview earlier this year, “that Saratoga, Keeneland, and Del Mar, arguably the three most attractive racetracks in the United States, have the three highest attendance figures.”
A common refrain among track goers is the low quality of the on-track experience. The physical plants of most tracks in this country are aging, and with handle dropping, few tracks are investing significantly in upgrades.
Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Florida recently underwent a complete overhaul, but it left veterans of the place lamenting the old track and criticizing the lack of seating space. In New York, most of Aqueduct Racetrack has been taken over by a casino, and the clubhouse, the only part of the massive structure in which one can still watch racing, includes one restaurant that offers a $30 buffet; the meal is served on plastic plates, coffee in take-out containers.
In stark contrast is the recently “Transformed” Madison Square Garden, the completion of which was revealed with much fanfare this fall. The roll-outs have been gradual over the last three years, as renovations began in the seats at ice level and slowly moved upward through the arena.
Before the project, Madison Square Garden, too, was often criticized for lackluster customer service and lack of amenities. In an effort to modernize what it itself an old building-–the current Garden opened in 1968—the Madison Square Garden Corporation invested more than $1 billion in what was called– with an apparently straight face–“The Transformation.”
From this fan’s perspective, it’s a case of being careful of what you wish for.
Continue reading at Forbes.com…