NYRA officials announced plans last week to host a good old fashioned hoe down at the East Avenue parking lot at the Saratoga Racecourse after the track closes this summer. The free-to-the-public event is expected to draw thousands, who will undoubtedly remain in good spirits given the event sponsor: Southern Comfort.
“San Diego had to close the gates because we were at capacity,” event spokesman Sean Wachsman said of a similar concert hosted in California.
Now, if a gigantic billboard-sized warning light isn’t going off somewhere, it should be. Country and southern rock festivals are renowned for their ability to draw drunken yahoos. And offering hard liquor as a sponsor is just about the only excuse all of these folks will need to raise Cain at the track.
It’s not to say these types of events aren’t welcome in the city. In fact, Saratoga Springs could use a little rollicking, now that the City Council has neutered the Caroline Street Block Party. But at the racecourse, the very collection of historic structures listed among the most endangered by the Preservation League of New York State? Well, let’s just say the idea is a bit skewed.
For the recently rehired NYRA, the shin-dig is part of plans to turn the track into an “entertainment destination capable of generating additional revenue,” Gavin Landry, NYRA’s senior vice president of sales and market development told the Times Union last week.
“The concert is a reflection that NYRA perceives all of its racetracks as venues, destinations used to host major events,” he said. “We’re having discussions with all three tracks that will allow us to offer things to people who may or may not come for the races.”
Like thousands of drunk hicks. Only time will tell how the event will pan out. There’s a chance the 7,000 to 15,000 expected for the event will be well-behaved and leave the track much as they found it. Yet scheduling an event like this is akin to dumping a bunch of gasoline all over the place and then handing a lit blow torch to a pyromaniac. Sure there’s a chance the gas might not ignite, but it’s not a very good one.