BATAVIA — There will be no negative test required for those who want to attend a Rockin’ the Downs concert this summer and those who are fully vaccinated won’t need to wear a mask, Batavia Downs officials have said.
The policy for the 13 outdoor concerts taking place out on the racetrack is similar to what is going on at other outdoor sporting and events spaces in New York, Batavia Downs President and CEO Henry Wojtaszek said.
“We’re going to require our patrons to follow whatever rules are in place at the time, following CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines,” he said after Thursday’s Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corporation (WROTB) Board of Directors meeting. “We’re going to make sure we follow whatever rules other like facilities around New York state are following.”
Right now, it looks like a maximum of about 2,500 spectators for a concert, he said.
“We do hope for a little bit of an increase. We anticipate somewhere around 2,500 to 3,000 people for a concert this summer,” Wojtaszek said.
There are 13 performances scheduled, mostly on Friday nights, starting with Almost Queen on June 11. A performance by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra has been added for July 18. BPO will perform with the Tragically Hip tribute band Strictly Hip and the doors will open at 5 p.m. July 18, with the show to start at 6 p.m.
All pairs of seats will be spaced 6 feet from each other in accordance with CDC regulations.
Those not vaccinated, including minors attending the concerts, are encouraged to wear masks while indoors, but can take off their mask once outside.
Those attending the concerts will still be required to enter through metal detectors. Some items, including weapons, laser pointers and outside food and beverage are not permitted. For a complete list of banned items, visit https://www.bataviadownsgaming.com/events/concerts/.
Regarding concerts, the board passed a resolution to buy a stage lighting package from Audio Images Sound & Lighting, Inc. for $27,159.
Also Thursday, on the topic of sports betting, Wojtaszek said the state Legislature expects the request for proposals to go out in mid-June to sports betting vendors.
“It’ll start to come into focus as to how they’re going to implement the sports-betting program in New York. It’ll go out from the state government, the Gaming Commission, to the various vendors working in the sports-betting industry and we’ll start to see they’re actually going to implement the program ...” he said. “We would like to be considered as one of the groups. What we plan to do is work together — all the OTBs work together to try and see whether we can have a role in the sports-betting industry.”
Wojtaszek said there isn’t a clear timeline for the state moving forward with sports betting.
“They had talked about actually coming up with the RFP (request for proposals) a little bit late in the year. It looks like they’re a little ahead of schedule, we’re told.”
Wojtaszek said a possible early retirement bill out of Albany is something OTB has been paying attention to.
“They passed a retirement bill for New York City, but they haven’t passed one for the rest of the state yet. That’s what we’re following and waiting to see just how they act upon (it) in the last two weeks of session,” he said. “They expect the session to end two weeks from today (Thursday).”
Wojtaszek said a bill would give employees near retirement an incentive to retire early. He said about five to 10 employees throughout the corporation might be impacted.
WROTB”s purchase of the Hotel at Batavia Downs for $8 million closed April 30. The hotel was purchased from ADK Hospitality LLC of Buffalo.
On the hotel closing, Wojtaszek said, “We’re working very closely with Hart Hotels (Management), who actually runs the hotel. Ryan’s department is doing a great job coming up with great marketing and promotional ideas.”
He acknowledged that business at the hotel dropped off at least 50 percent due to COVID-19 and said, “We actually had a report yesterday (Wednesday) which shows that it started to really pick up. We expect it to get back to pre-pandemic levels by the end of this year.”
Also, the board approved renewing an insurance contract, mainly with Travelers Insurance, at an annual premium of about $1 million. The savings to WROTB would be about $35,000.
“Anytime we have a savings and it’s a fairly significant savings, that’s good news for the corporation,” Wojtaszek said.
The $35,000 savings on the net premium to WROTB was announced during the meeting. The annual premium total for WROTB is $1,001,348.43. The board voted to renew the policy.
WROTB will distribute $84,349 in surcharge revenue to member municipalities for April.
During the Batavia Downs Operations Committee report, board member Ed Morgan said Director of Live Racing Todd Haight reports 59 night races are scheduled for the upcoming season.
“I did walk the track with Todd after they put down the material and it is in excellent condition —very soft cushioning, and they did it under budget,” he said.
The board thanked board member Ron Darrow, representing Oswego County, who was attending his last meeting before retiring at the end of the month. Chairman Richard Bianchi said Darrow, who joined the board in 2010, hasn’t missed more than one or two meetings.
“It’s been great, but every once in a while, the time comes that you’ve got to give it up,” he said. “This happened to be the time. I’m not going to miss the drive back and forth, particularly in the wintertime, As I get older, that becomes a little more difficult,”