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Preserving a piece of racing history

About three years ago, the New York Racing Association was negotiating the final agreement to claim Saratoga Race Course as its franchise, and it was also around this time that the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation began to have concerns about the long-term preservation of the historic features of the race track.

Samantha Bosshart, executive director of the Foundation, said the organization started raising money to complete an inventory of the race course and recently raised enough to complete Phase I of this inventory, which will include the more than 200 buildings and 350 acres of the race course.

Phase I of the inventory will consist of an architectural building resource survey of several areas identified as potential capital improvement areas, as well as a complete cultural resource survey of the entire landscape of the Saratoga Race Course, said Bosshart in a statement.

The total cost of Phase I is $32,000. On April 12, the Saratoga County IDA approved an application submitted by the City of Saratoga Springs for a $10,000 grant to complete funding for the first phase. The foundation was also given an $8,000 grant from the Alfred Z. Solomon Charitable Trust, said Bosshart, and the first phase will permanently carry the name of Solomon, who was an "avid horse racing fan." The foundation sought and received $9,000 in grant funding through the "Preserve NY Grant Program," which is funded by the Preservation League of New York State and the New York State Council on the Arts. NYRA also made a $5,000 contribution toward Phase I.

"NYRA has always been aware of the unique history of Saratoga Race Course and the need to maintain the existing buildings and landscape into the future. We are also aware that the buildings at Saratoga would benefit from investment in the short term. ... We are delighted by the pro-active approach of the Saratoga Local Advisory Board and the relationship that they have struck with the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation," said Charles Hayward, NYRA president and CEO in a statement. "In particular, the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation has demonstrated a clear understanding of what is needed for the race course and Saratoga to be successful. Close collaboration will result in the best outcome for all concerned."

According to Bosshart, in 2006, the Saratoga County IDA conducted a study to determine the annual economic impact of the race course on the region and found it had a $200 million impact.

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