Vernon Downs to make big changes
Vernon Downs is set to kick off its 59th season on Friday night. A lot has changed about the track and casino in its time, but some things haven't. Our Andrew Sorensen shows us the new attractions they are adding to their old traditions this year.
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VERNON, N.Y. -- This track, though steeped in tradition, nearly closed due to financial issues in 2005. But Vernon Downs is hoping to make some big changes if the state amends the constitution to allow gambling tables at their casino.
"Basically we would add a spa, we would add an indoor parking garage, we would expand the casino," owner Jeff Gural said at a press conference Tuesday night.
That's in addition to last year's hotel and events center expansions. They even reworked the traditional racing season schedule.
For all of the things that are changing around here, there's one thing that hasn't changed in 50 years: the voice.
"I'm still doing it today and I love every minute of it," said long time race caller Jim Moran.
Moran has a deep running passion for his fast paced cubicle, high above the Downs.
"I'm a fan of the sport," he said, "And the history of harness racing. For 50 years, we've had some of the best horses and the best drivers, trainers, [and] owners in the sport."
He's seen them come a long way and he likes where they're heading.
"The new ownership ... have made the racing very exciting again, it's like the old days when we had Grand Circuit here."
Moran sees the benefits of spontaneity, like the expansion and the major concerts like Bruce Springsteen in August.
"I think it's great that the casino adds that extra element of excitement and entertainment that bring the people to the track and hopefully it will help us stay here for many years to come," he said.
Even without the constitutional amendment, it looks like Vernon Downs is picking up the speed they need to accomplish that goal.
The race track will have their first races of the season this Friday night. Tickets for the Bruce Springsteen concert go on sale Saturday at 10 a.m.