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Batavia Downs

June 27, 2015 - 11:03am
posted by Billie Owens in sports, Batavia Downs, harness racing.

Batavia Downs Gaming is pleased to announce that Brittney Ohol will go to post as the new parade marshal for the upcoming summer-fall meet.

Ohol grew up around harness racing while being raised by her grandparents (Mike and Brenda Ohol) who both competed on the Western New York circuit for more than 30 years. The 21-year-old Lockport High School graduate attended Medaille College for vet tech before deciding to return to harness racing as a full-time career.

After getting her trainer’s and qualifying driver’s licenses, Ohol started her own stable and now owns and races three horses. Besides conventional competition, she has also been involved with racing under saddle (RUS) in New York State.

Ohol started to learn the art of outriding from Wendy Ross at Tioga Downs in 2011 and has now worked with her on and off for over four years. In 2014, Ohol took the position full time at Rosecroft Raceway in Maryland. But after the meet ended there, she returned home because it was too far away from family.

When the job at Batavia Downs came available this year, the call went out to Brittney Ohol because she was a natural fit and the timing was right for her as well.

“I love having the opportunity to take this position at Batavia Downs. It’s close to my family and my home base where I know everybody so it makes it so much easier. I want to remain in the business as long as harness racing is around,” Ohol said. “I have two good horses named Paco and Cody and they allow me to do my job as well as I can. I am really looking forward to the upcoming meet to get started.”

“Brittney Ohol has a harness racing pedigree and has been a part of the racing community here at the Downs since she was a child,” said Todd Haight, director/general manager of Live Racing at Batavia Downs.

“Her abilities as a horsewoman combined with her passion for the sport makes her the perfect fit for this job and ensures high-quality assistance to all the horsemen who race here every night. We are very happy to have her on board.”

The 69th season of live harness racing at America’s oldest lighted harness track begins on Monday, July 27 with a 6:35 p.m. post time.

June 27, 2015 - 10:56am
posted by Billie Owens in sports, Batavia Downs, harness racing.

Press release:

Horsemen should be advised that stall applications for the 69th season of live harness racing at Batavia Downs Gaming are now available at the track’s Web site (http://www.bataviadownsgaming.com/live-racing/wp-content/uploads/2015/04...) or can be picked up in person at the second floor reception desk inside America’s oldest lighted harness track. All stall requests must be received by July 10.

For the convenience of western New York horsemen who are currently racing at Buffalo Raceway, these applications are also available at the Western New York Harness Horsemen’s Association office located on the backstretch of that track.

The 2015 Batavia Downs season features 70 race dates and includes eight matinee cards. The annual summer-fall meet commences on Monday, July 27 and concludes on Saturday, Dec. 12.

Live racing will be presented on a Wednesday, Friday and Saturday night basis except for Saturday Oct. 31 (Breeders Cup day) when racing will be conducted at 1:15 p.m.

Aside from that three-day rotation, five Sunday afternoon programs will be held beginning on Aug. 2 and continuing through the end of the month.

Monday racing includes opening night and holiday programs on Labor Day and Columbus Day.

Tuesday racing begins Sept. 15.

The season begins with evening post times of 6:35 p.m. and matinee post times of 1:15 p.m.

New this year, Tuesday post time moves to 4:30 p.m. while beginning on Oct. 21 all evening programs for the remainder of the season go off at 6:15 p.m., with an anticipated extra race each night being carded.

Stall applications can be mailed to the race office at 8315 Park Road, Batavia, NY 14020, Attn: Joe Zambito or faxed to 585-343-2451.

The backstretch opens for tack on July 19. Horses may begin arriving in the barn area on July 21.

June 26, 2015 - 5:34pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in GCEDC, Batavia Downs, business, batavia.

Dealing just with hard numbers -- setting aside speculation on hoped-for new revenue and "the multiplier effect" of jobs created -- the tax abatement plan approved Thursday by the Genesee County Economic Development Center Board for a new hotel at Batavia Downs should be profitable for taxpayers, according to data obtained by The Batavian from a GCEDC staffer.

The abatements will save developers about 11.5 percent on their $5.49 million investment, and the new taxes the project generates will be about a 100-percent return to taxpayers, if you accept the notion that the project doesn't get built at all without the tax incentives. If not, it's at least 42-percent return.

By law, the developer must certify that the project requires a tax break to be feasible, according to Rachael J. Tabelski, marketing and communications director. That is a requirement for all projects considered by the GCEDC.

"We have to trust the applicant that when they say this project won't be a viable project without the tax incentives," Tabelski said.

ADK Hospitality, the hotel's developer, will save $638,000 in taxes over the next 10 years, but it won't be getting off totally free. The hotel's owners, over the next 10 years, will pay $1.1 million in various taxes.

Tabelski was quick to point out that the $638,000 in tax breaks is not money taken from taxpayers. It's just money that isn't paid to the government; money that doesn't exist if the project isn't built. Thus, the $1.1 million in taxes ADK will pay over the next decade is all new revenue for schools, the county and the state (but not the Town of Batavia, which doesn't have its own tax on property).

That figure doesn't include sales tax generated by the hotel, or any anticipated increase in sales tax generated by the hoped-for increase in business at Batavia Downs. It also doesn't include employment taxes generated by the anticipated $600,000 in payroll for 25 full-time equivalent new hires at the hotel. 

The developers told the GCEDC Board that the project would generate a total of $2.8 million in tax revenue between now and 2025, but there isn't a breakdown available on what categories of taxes comprise that total. It likely covers fire district, property, bed tax, sales tax and payroll tax.

The $1.1 million in hard numbers we have includes:

  • $56,000 paid to the Town of Batavia Fire District;
  • $550,000 paid in county bed taxes;
  • $500,000 paid in property taxes over the life of the PILOT.

A PILOT is a tax break given to developers of projects that industrial development agencies, such as GCEDC, believe will create or retain jobs. It is a reduction in taxes on the increase in assessed value of a property.

Let's say a property is valued at $100,000. A business ads a new wing to its building and increases the assessed value to $150,000. The business continues to pay all property taxes on the initial $100,000 in assessed value, but gets a reduction in taxes on that additional $50,000. PILOT agreements vary, but typically, there would be no taxes due the first two years of the increase, and then taxes would be incrementally increased every two years until the 10th year, when the property owner is paying the full tax bill on the increase in assessed value.

In the case of the hotel property, the developers are buying land from Western OTB, which is currently tax-exempt and has no assessed value. It will be assessed next year, and its assessed value will go from zero to whatever that assessed value is, and the PILOT will be calculated based on that increase, unless the project is not yet completed, in which case there will be only a partial assessment with a full assessment to come during the next annual assessment period after the project's completion.

The PILOT on this project is worth $300,000. The remaining abatements are for the mortgage tax on the purchase and on the sales taxes due on material purchased during construction.

As for the multiplier effect, that's a controversial notion to some, but the idea is that if you create a new job and pay that person money, they will spend some amount of that money locally, and the churn of that money will help pay other people's wages, lifting everyone's boats. That $600,000 in new payroll could be worth millions in economic growth locally.

These figures also don't include wages paid to construction workers and purchases made from local vendors -- if any -- during construction.

June 25, 2015 - 5:38pm
posted by Traci Turner in GCEDC, Batavia Downs.

The Genesee Economic Development Center Board voted unanimously to approve ADK Hospitality’s application for approximately $638,000 in tax exemptions during a special meeting this afternoon.

ADK is planning to build an 84-room hotel connected to the Batavia Downs gaming facility. The investment is estimated at $5.49 million.

The board agreed with ADK Hospitality that the project falls under the tourism destination requirement with the general municipal law, which states the destination must bring in outside traffic.

In response to the Clarion Hotel’s opposition to the project, Steven Hyde, GCEDC president and CEO, stated that ADK’s project application was different from the Clarion’s project application submitted in 2012.

According to GCEDC records, the Clarion Hotel submitted an incentive application for window and stucco upgrades to their facility as well as debt refinance. Staff responded to the application and said the project may not meet law requirements to enhance the destination and attract more visitors. The Clarion Hotel then removed its application.

For ADK's project, Hyde stated many full-fledged casinos offer lodging and the hotel is a good opportunity to increase traffic at Batavia Downs.

“Today we’re looking at brand-new construction, a new feature integrated to the destination and a market study that confirms the projections will meet law requirements,” Hyde said.

Wolcott Hinchey, chairman, thinks the hotel will significantly contribute to continued growth and economic development in Genesee County.

“One of the things that I liked about this project is that we’re taking a tax-exempt property and selling it to a private developer and putting a property in the Town of Batavia back on the tax rolls,” Hinchey said. “I think the benefits of the project to the community outweigh the negatives.”

Michael Nolan, vice president of Western Regional Off-Track Betting, is looking forward to starting hotel construction.

“The staff here has been wonderful with looking at every detail of the project and what it will mean to the community,” Nolan said. "We can’t thank them enough for all the professionalism that they displayed throughout the whole process. As soon as the legal work dealing with the closing of the property is complete, we will start construction at the Downs.”

In addition to ADK's project, the GCEDC approved an application submitted by Manning Squires Henning Co. for approximately $170,000 in tax exemptions to expand its facilities. The company plans to add 5,000 square feet and renovate its existing shop and office space. The project’s investment is approximately $1.3 million.

June 23, 2015 - 7:13pm
posted by Traci Turner in GCEDC, Batavia Downs, batavia, business.

An attorney representing the Clarion Hotel and members of the community voiced concerns regarding the application submitted by ADK Hospitality, LLC, to Genesee County Economic Development Center for incentives to build a hotel at Batavia Downs.

A public hearing was held Monday night by the GCEDC to gain input from the community on the application they received from ADK, a private developer seeking to build a hotel at Batavia Downs, requesting approximately $630,000 in incentives.

Vivek Thiagarajan, attorney representing Clarion owner Chat Patel, argued that when his client looked into applying for GCEDC incentives to build the Palm Island Indoor Waterpark in 2012 he was told the project would be denied funding because it was not considered a tourist destination. Thiagarajan argued that ADK's hotel is not a tourist destination and Batavia Downs should not receive tax incentives either. 

"There is no tourist destination about the hotel itself," Thiagarajan said. "Maybe the name makes it look like it's affiliated with Batavia Downs but the hotel is merely just like any other hotel. As a result, the public shouldn't be forced to fund something that only benefits the private owners of that hotel."

Thiagarajan also argued that the purchase price of $600,000 is less than the $630,000 in incentives the project would receive from the GCEDC.

In addition to Thiagarajan's opposition, John Sackett, a past county legislator, questioned whether the hotel would create full-time jobs and believed the hotel should be built without incentives.

A representative from the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters expressed concern over whether Batavia Downs and ADK would use union construction workers to build the hotel. The union agreed it would support the hotel project if union construction workers were used.

A variety of local businesses wrote letters in support of the proposal. The businesses included Sport of Kings Restaurant, Harness Horse Breeders of New York State, Sloat Tire Shop, Genesee Feeds, Nothnagle Realtors, Genesee County Chamber of Commerce, WNY Harness Horsemen's Association and U.S. Foods. The businesses stated that Batavia Downs is a primary asset for attracting tourism and the addition of the hotel would bring more people and business to the community.

Anthony Baynes, managing member of ADK, provided details on the hotel project and the economic impact it would have on Genesee County. In the presentation, Baynes stated the $5.5-million hotel will be a four-story structure with 84 rooms. Itl will also be connected to Batavia Downs Gaming and complement the design elements of the new gaming entrance. There will be no restaurant or bar in the hotel.

"The hotel will positively impact Batavia Downs and local tourism on a permanent basis," Baynes said. "It will generate incremental gaming, banquet, food and beverage revenue at Batavia Downs, which will result in increases in tax collection, jobs preserved and additional jobs created."

According to Michael Nolan, vice president of Western Regional Off-Track Betting, the corporation that owns Batavia Downs, the hotel will help the gaming industry expand and allow them to compete with other casinos that are building hotels.

The hotel will result in the creation of 23 jobs. There also will be more job growth due to the number of wedding and conventions Batavia Downs will host because of the hotel.

"We think our banquet facility is going to multiple 10 times due to the hotel," Nolan said. "It's well within reason that there will be 50 jobs coming with the addition of the hotel."

According to statistics provided by Hotel & Leisure Advisors, a national hospitality consultant firm, the total impact of the new gaming revenue, new food and beverage sale and increased banquet business will be $2.6 million for the first year of operation. In the first 10 years of operation, the impact will be $31 million.

The GCEDC Board of Directors is having a special public meeting to consider a final resolution for the project. The meeting will be held at 11:15 a.m. on Thursday at the Innovation Zone Conference Room at MedTech Centre.

June 18, 2015 - 4:37pm

Press release:

The Board of Directors of the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) has scheduled public hearings on June 22 and June 23 for project applications submitted by ADK Hospitality, LLC, and Manning Squires Henning Co., Inc. The public hearings are required because both projects have applied for incentives totaling more than $100,000 from the GCEDC.

A public hearing for ADK Hospitality will be held at 7 p.m. on Monday, June 22 at Batavia Town Hall. The company is proposing to build an 82-room hotel connected to Batavia Down’s gaming facility. ADK Hospitality is seeking an estimated $638,193 in sales tax, mortgage tax and property tax exemptions. The planned capital investment is approximately $5.49 million.

A public hearing for Manning Squires Hennig Co. will be held at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, June 23, at Batavia Town Hall. The company is proposing to expand its corporate offices and maintenance facilities in the Town of Batavia by up to 5,000 square foot. Manning Squires Hennig Co. is seeking an estimated $170,556 in incentives.

June 8, 2015 - 11:21am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Downs, sports, horse racing.

Press release:

Representatives from Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corporation (WROTB) announced today that wagering at WROTB on Saturday’s Belmont Stakes totaled $1,168,559.  American Pharoah captured the first Triple Crown in 37 years. This was down just 6.2 percent from last year’s handle of $1,246,239 while nationwide; handle was down 10.5 percent versus last year. The 2014 race featured three more horses, which increased wagering. Batavia Bets.com, WROTB’s online wagering platform, had handle of over $110,000 for the day, up 28 percent from last year.

“It was great to see a Triple Crown winner. Those watching at Batavia Downs and our Branches were witness to a great horse fulfilling his destiny," said Batavia Downs and WROTB Marketing Director Ryan Hasenauer. "I have no doubt that if this race had more horses, we would have beaten last year’s numbers.”

“Kudos to the connections of American Pharoah, they did a great job with the colt,” said GM of Live Racing and OTB Handicapper Todd Haight. “Hopefully we’ll get to see him race a few more times this year before he heads to the breeding shed to begin his next career. In any event, we can all look forward to seeing his offspring run.”   

TV viewing ratings topped a 12.3 rating with a 27 share. It was the first time in back to back years that the Belmont had higher than a 12 rating.​

May 29, 2015 - 10:17pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia Downs, 5K, festival of hope.

festhope5k2015.jpg

Tonight was the Festival of Hope at Batavia Downs. Among the events, a 5K run and walk.

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festhope5k2015-3.jpg

festhope5k2015-4.jpg

festhope5k2015-5.jpg

May 15, 2015 - 12:04pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Downs, business, batavia, Western OTB.

gcplanningboardmay142015.jpg

Officials at Western OTB think the odds of hitting a jackpot are better if their proposed hotel overlooks the Batavia Downs racetrack.

It is, after all, the oldest lighted harness racing track in America and the reason Batavia Downs exists in the first place.

Shoehorning it into the constrained space around the track, however, will require some bending of the rules.

There are zoning variances needed to lot size, lot frontage, front, side and rear setbacks and building height.

The scope of the variances prompted county planning staff to recommend disapproval of the project.

After Western OTB VP Mike Nolan pleaded with the board to support the project, saying it's the only viable option to ensure Batavia Downs continues to thrive and generate millions of dollars for the local economy, planning board members were unwilling to say no to the plan. They also didn't say yes.

The board took no action and the plan is now kicked back with no recommendation to Town of Batavia planners. It will be up to the town's Planning Board to decide whether to grant the variances.

Yes, Town of Batavia, not City of Batavia.

When the hotel plans were first announced, for the 80- to 100-room hotel, officials were talking about a location on the south end of the track, near Tops Plaza, but Nolan said further study on that location indicated it just wasn't viable. It's simply not big enough.

The current proposed location is on the north end of the track and would require the removal of some of the current paddock area.

It's critical, Nolan said, that the hotel be attached to the gaming facility and that it have suites with balconies overlooking the track.

A board member asked, why not in the parking lot on the west side of Park Road?

"It's important that horse racing stays strong and vibrant," Nolan said. "Over in the parking lot, it wouldn't have the same appeal as overlooking the oldest lighted harness racing track in America."

The target audience for the hotel aren't travelers passing through the area, but people willing to travel to Batavia specifically to place bets on races and drop coins in slots.

The desk for the hotel would, in fact, be in the gaming facility itself. (Some of us might call it a casino, but the state's compact with the Senecas prohibits Batavia Downs officials from calling it a casino).

The gaming environment in WNY is getting more competitive, Nolan said, and with the Senecas planning a new $400-million casino a short drive away, it's critical Batavia Downs up its wager on local gaming. Western OTB recently completed a $28-million upgrade to Batavia Downs and the hotel represents the next phase in making Batavia Downs more attractive to gambling dollars.

The land for the hotel would be sold to private investors who would own the hotel and operate it as a franchise of a national hotel company.

Nolan noted that when Western OTB took over Batavia Downs, since Western OTB is a public benefit corporation, it took $3 million in assessed value off the tax roles. The new hotel would be assessed at something in the neighborhood of $7 million, and while tax abatements used to help fund development would delay the full value of that tax levy being realized by some local governments, eventually it would generate substantial tax revenue for the county and school district.

Even if the private developers decided to eventually sell the property and Western OTB became the owner, the property would stay on the tax roll, Nolan said.

gcplanningboardmay142015-2.jpg

May 6, 2015 - 4:39pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Downs, sports.

Press release:

Representatives from Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corporation (WROTB) announced that total wagering at WROTB on Saturday’s Kentucky Derby topped out at $1,930,585.30 with payouts of 2,067,622.80. Wagering handle was the second highest in WROTB’s history, and its payout to winning bettors was $800,000 more than last year and higher than it took in wagers, a first. 

“It’s the first time we’ve ever seen more payouts than money taken in," said WROTB Handicapper and Live Racing GM Todd Haight.

The complimentary Derby programs given out at WROTB Branches, EZ Bets and at Batavia Downs on Saturday touted Haight’s Hot Picks on the cover, which correctly selected the top four Derby finishers in exact order. The bettors of Western New York certainly benefitted as WROTB paid out $600,000 in winning Trifecta bets and over $630,000 in winning Superfecta wagers, both records.

Wagers placed at Batavia Downs Gaming totaled $62,248.50, an increase of nearly 5 percent over last year. Wagering using BataviaBets.com, WROTB’s online Web site, on the Derby was $53,821, a 26.6-percent increase over last year. Nationally the handle on the Kentucky Derby was up 4 percent and was its highest ever at $197 Million.

“It’s so exciting to see that interest in the Kentucky Derby is alive and well in Western New York," said Ryan Hasenauer, director of Marketing of Batavia Downs and WROTB. “We’re all pulling for a Triple Crown contender in American Pharoah. All our Branches will be open at 10 a.m. on May 16th, the morning of the Preakness, and we’ll be having another party with live tellers at Batavia Downs. Our Trifecta special includes food, Free Play and a complimentary Preakness wager like we had for the Derby.”

Owned and operated by 15 Western New York counties and the cities of Rochester and Buffalo, Western Regional OTB is a public benefit corporation with headquarters in Batavia. WROTB owns and operates 28 branches, as well as Batavia Downs Gaming, a standardbred racetrack and gaming facility.

May 6, 2015 - 3:25am
Event Date and Time: 
May 29, 2015 -
4:30pm to 9:30pm
There are actually two events:
  • 1. Genesee Cancer Assistance will hold its Annual​ Festival of Hope (Walk Against Cancer) at​ Batavia Downs, 8315​ Park Road, Batavia, NY on Friday,​ May 29, 2015​ 5:00PM-9:30PM.
The family-oriented event includes a Kid Zone, Music, Food, Raffles, Luminarias, and more!  Funds raised assist cancer patients and their families. Free Play is being given to all persons who participate in the event, just see Joe Gerace while the coupons last!
March 29, 2015 - 6:35pm
posted by James Burns in batavia, Batavia Downs, Train show.

The Genesee Society of Model Engineers held its biannual model railroad show at the Clarion Hotel in Batavia this weekend. There were about 100 vendors and railroad preservation societies exhibiting. Attendance was very strong. The Clarion parking lot was filled and cars were parked in the mall and the streets. Attendees came from all over the state as well as Pennsylvania and Ontario, Canada.

 

February 27, 2015 - 12:44pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia Downs, business.

The city is ready, willing and able to help get construction started quickly on a new, five-story, 80- to 100-room hotel at Batavia Downs, said City Manager Jason Molino.

While developers and Western OTB officials have yet to agree on the precise location of the hotel, COO Mike Nolan said this morning the most likely spot is overlooking the southwest turn of the track, adjacent the grandstands, near the Tops Plaza.

That location is within the boundaries of the City of Batavia, meaning it will be the city's zoning and planning boards that will be called on for plan, design and environmental reviews.

"Being able to get this project reviewed and in front of all the proper boards is something we're committed to," Molino said. "We will make every effort, including holding special meetings, to move this along as swiftly and as smoothly as we can to meet the goals of the developers. I don't think this is a concern for us. We've worked with these size projects before and we can get it through smoothly."

Nolan said the developers, a Buffalo-based group that will purchase the property for the hotel from Western OTB, would like to break ground in 60 days and have the hotel open within nine months.

"The best part of this story is that back in 1998, when Western OTB bought Batavia Downs, it took $3 million (in assessed value) off the tax rolls," Nolan said. "Now, in 2015, $7 million plus is going back on the tax rolls for a facility that was closed and drawing nothing but cobwebs."

The increase in tax revenue won't hit local governments all at once, since the developers are likely to seek tax abatements from Genesee County Economic Development Center, but the exact structure of tax relief won't be clear until applications are made and abatements are approved.

Typically, tax abatements from GCEDC include relief on sales tax for construction material and furnishing, mortgage tax and a PILOT, which graduates the amount of property tax paid over a 10-year time frame, until the property owner is paying 100 percent of the taxes on the fully assessed value.

State law prohibits industrial development agencies from providing tax assistance to retail projects, unless they qualify as tourist destinations or are intended to attract visitors from outside the area.

Projects that are with economically distressed areas, or adjacent to such areas, are also exempt from the law.

Julie Pacatte, coordinator for the Batavia Development Corp., said one advantage Batavia Downs can realize by building the hotel on property within city limits (Batavia Downs straddles the City/Town line) is the census track is adjacent to a census track that includes Downtown Batavia, which qualifies as an economically distressed area.

"We're thrilled at the idea of having a distinctive hotel within the city," Pacatte said. "What they're planning, where you arrive in a very Vegas-style, shared lobby area, where you can check into the hotel and stay within the facility throughout your weekend, and being on the track, overlooking the last turn from a balcony, is pretty exciting."

Because the hotel won't offer other amenities, but is geared entirely toward the visitor looking for casino and harness racing entertainment, the folks at Western OTB don't believe it will compete with existing hotels, Nolan said.

"With this becoming a more competitive casino market in Upstate New York, we felt we needed to step up," Nolan said. "There's a casino coming to Seneca County, and the Seneca's already have casinos at their Niagara and Salamanca properties. In this new and up and coming casino market the way it is, we needed to offer some hospitality for our casino customers."

The other advantage the city offers a water-hungry facility like a hotel is lower water rates. Rates in the city are $3.14 per thousand gallons of water compared to $5.46 in the town.

The developers are negotiating with a couple of different hotel chains, so it's possible the new hotel will be operated under the banner of a Hilton Garden Inn or a Courtyard Marriott, or some other banner.

Batavia Downs is just wrapping up a $28 million remodeling and expansion effort and th hotel will complement that growth, Nolan said.

"We have a tremendous opportunity for convention-type of events and banquet-type of events that require lodging," Nolan said.

The hotel, Molino said, will certainly be a boost to the local economy, bringing in more visitors, creating jobs and spurring other types of economic growth. 

"This is a great opportunity and a great project," Molino said. "Everybody in my office, with the BDC and in planning are excited to work with the developers. We're going to do everything in our power to make sure it moves as quickly as it can and move as promptly as possible. That would be a win-win for everybody involved."

February 21, 2015 - 3:54pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Downs, sports.

Batavia Downs hosted another sports collectables show again today, and again the show included autograph sessions to sports stars.

Pictured in these photos are former Buffalo Bills and Hall of Fame inductee Billy Shaw, Heisman Trophy winner Charles White and pitching great Luis Tiant.

December 22, 2014 - 7:03pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia Downs, business.

The new entrance and lobby for Batavia Downs is nearly complete and is open now.

There is some finish-up, "trim" work to complete, said Ryan Hasenauer, marketing director for Western OTB, but otherwise, it's good to go.

November 21, 2014 - 3:19pm
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, sports, harness racing.

Press release:

As a direct result of the relentless snowstorm that has crippled most of Western New York, Batavia Downs has announced that it will forgo live racing for the remainder of the week. The programs that were originally scheduled for tonight (Nov. 21) and Saturday (Nov. 22) have been cancelled.

The decision was made jointly on Thursday by Batavia Downs management and the Western New York Harness Horsemen’s Association (WNYHHA) and both parties agreed it was the only thing to do.

Bruce Tubin, president of the WNYHHA said “In view of the devastating storm that has kept our horses from their daily exercise routine, our trainers from leaving their homes, and our blacksmiths and veterinarians from attending to our horses, I have mutually agreed with Batavia Downs management to cancel our Friday and Saturday race cards. There was physically no way for us to properly prepare our horses to race this weekend.”

Todd Haight, director/GM of live racing at Batavia Downs added “It would have been impossible for the equine athletes to compete at the highest level when most haven't been able to leave the barn for days. The decision to cancel this early takes the pressure off all parties involved.

"Our main goal now is get the barn area cleared of snow and the racetrack in the best possible condition for next Wednesday. We regret having to cancel but it was the right thing to do to make sure we didn’t experience any injuries on or off the track.”

Further concerns cited were about horsemen who ship in from areas that have been devastated by the snow and the changing conditions forecast over the next two days taking the weather from cold and snowy to a rapid meltdown and flooding by the weekend.

In light of these cancellations, pending approval from the New York State Gaming Commission, there will be two double-headers carded on the last two Saturdays of the meet. Nov. 29 and Dec. 6 will now offer two complete cards of racing at 12:15 and 6:35. Live racing at the Downs is scheduled to resume on Wednesday, Nov. 26. That leaves eight cards of live racing over six days.

Please note the new draw schedule. The Friday and Saturday afternoon cards will be drawn on Tuesday. The Saturday night cards will be drawn on Wednesday. And the final two Wednesday’s will be drawn on Friday, as always. The box will close at 9 a.m. If you have any questions please contact Race Secretary Joe Zambito at 585-344-6161.

Haight also noted that starting Wednesday, Nov. 26, the purses will increase by 20 percent in an effort to help the horsemen through the cancellations and as they come to the five week winter break at the end of this meet.

November 16, 2014 - 4:41pm
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, sports, harness racing.

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

Western Alumni ($11.40) took full advantage of a perfect pocket trip to score in the featured $9,000 Open pace at Batavia Downs on Saturday night (Nov. 15).

Driver Jim McNeight left hard from post seven with Western Alumni and took the lead from rail-rider American Bull (Kevin Cummings) by the eighth pole. But as soon as they crossed over to the pylons, American Bull completed the give-and-go by regaining the lead at the quarter in :28.4. After a more than pedestrian :59.3 half, the outer flow came fast led by Burton Blue Chip (Lee Dahn) first up, but not as fast as American Bull who upped the tempo with a :28.1 third panel. At that point the leader looked solid. But at the head of the stretch when the passing lane opened up, Western Alumni ducked inside and responded to McNeight’s highly animated urging to gain a head victory over a game American Bull in 1:56.3. Just Frank (Rock C Vinci) bested the rest for third.

It was the eighth win of the year for the 6-year-old Western Hanover gelding and the purse raised his 2014 earnings to $67,739 for owners North Creek Racing LLC. Western Alumni is trained by Jerry Nugent Jr.

The Downs leading driver, Kevin Cummings, followed up his five-win Friday night with a four-win effort on Saturday. He tallied with Tymal Torch ($29) and Union Man Hanover ($7) (to complete the $242.50 early double) as well as Flashy Trick ($4.80) and Fast Fool ($8.40). Drew Monti, Jim McNeight and Jack Flanigen all registered driving doubles.

Live racing reconvenes on Wednesday night (Nov. 19) with a 6:35 post time.

November 6, 2014 - 3:30pm
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, sports, harness racing.

By Tom Bojarski for Batavia Downs

Jacob "Jake" Baumeister, a 24-year-old provisional reinsman, was released from the United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia late Wednesday night (Nov. 5) after being involved in a racing accident at Batavia Downs.

Baumeister, driving 99-1 shot Vital Speed, appeared to hit the wheel of early leader (53-1) Call Her Quick with Jack Flanigen at the controls, as the field of winners of one but not more than three pacers were heading to the three-quarters.

Call Her Quick got rough gaited and went off stride. Baumeister and Vital Speed were directly behind and couldn’t avoid the breaker and went down. Baumeister was catapulted from the race bike.

Also involved in the accident was Justrollwithit and driver Truman Gale. They appeared to hook the wheel of the sulky of Vital Speed. Gale, a Vernon Downs regular, was also catapulted from the sulky.

Jacob Baumeister, the son of longtime Western New York trainer/driver Mike Baumeister and grandson of Ronald, who also raced at Batavia and Buffalo Raceway, suffered a concussion and facial lacerations. Gale walked off under his own power.

Vital Speed suffered minor abrasions and walked back to the paddock while Justrollwithit, who ran loose after unseating Gale, was apprehended by paddock personnel with no apparent injuries.

“We were definitely lucky that involved parties will be okay,” said Todd Haight, director/GM of live racing. “That was a very nasty spill. Jake is the nicest young man you’re ever going to meet and we all wish him a speedy recovery.”

November 6, 2014 - 7:17am
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, sports, harness racing.

Bazooka Terror with driver Kevin Cummings

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

Bazooka Terror is known for her explosive come-from-behind finishes and there is nothing that makes her driver Kevin Cummings happier than to see a speed duel in front of him early. That's exactly what happened in the $9,500 Open mares pacing feature at Batavia Downs on Wednesday night (Nov. 5) and it provided the classy 5-year-old the perfect recipe for success en route to scoring her tenth victory of the year.

As the race unfolded, Mondatta (Dave McNeight III) and Itstimeformetofly (Drew Monti) refused to play nice on the front end. Mondatta would not let Itstimeformetofly go and Itstimeformetofly would not take a seat behind Mondatta. As a result, the two battled through fractions of :26.4 and :55.4 before Itstimeformetofly finally took the front and crossed over to the pylons. Heading up the backside it became apparent that the early pace was taking its toll and Cummings didn't waste any time pulling the trigger. He tipped the big mare three-deep from sixth and circled the entire field past the three-quarter pole. From there Bazooka Terror just paced away to score a decisive six-length victory in 1:55. Mondatta came back on to be second and Itstimeformetofly hung in for third.

Besides pushing Bazooka Terror's win total to double digits, the victory also boosted her annual earnings to $79,269 for owner Leonard Segall. Bazooka Terror is trained by James Clouser Jr.

The eighth race was marred by an unfortunate accident when the leader Call Her Quick (Jack Flanigen) made a break that caused Vital Speed (Jake Baumeister) and Justrollwithit (Truman Gale) to pile into her as she altered her speed. This sent both trailing drivers to the track. Fortunately when it happened, the two were at the back of the pack and there were no other horses behind them. Driver Truman Gale was alright and got right up. Jake Baumeister was assisted up and taken to the hospital for treatment of a possible head injury. The downed horse got up, the loose horse was caught and both suffered only minor abrasions.

Driver Drew Monti scored a driving triple with Donegal Jim ($2.80), Feets of Magic ($3.90) and Rashabec ($10.80) while the meet's leading driver Kevin Cummings steered home two winners.

Racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Friday (Nov. 7) with a 6:35 post time.

October 30, 2014 - 8:45pm
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, sports, harness racing.

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

For the fourth time this meet, Batavia Downs leading driver Kevin Cummings won five races on one card Wednesday night (Oct. 29) to extend his insurmountable lead there in the dash category.

His pentamerous outing included visits to the Purple Haze winners circle with Western Heart ($2.90), Serendipitous ($4.80), Outoftexas ($4.70), Aberarder Smitty ($11.40) and Tymal torch ($6.10).

For the current Batavia Downs meet, Cummings has 122 wins, almost double his nearest competitor, along with a gaudy UDR of .386. For the year he has 298 wins and is currently 12th in North America for UDR with a .360. His current win total, UDR and just under $1.4 million in earnings are all career bests.

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