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September 27, 2018 - 12:16pm

Dignitaries gather for Batavia Downs' expansion groundbreaking

posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia Downs Gaming, Western Regional OTB.

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All who spoke at this morning’s groundbreaking ceremony for a $4 million expansion project at Batavia Downs Gaming agreed on one central point: It’s the residents of the municipalities supported by the facility who benefit the most.

“Funds (generated) from gaming go to local communities to keep the tax rate lower,” said state Sen. Michael D. Ranzenhofer (R-Amherst), whose comments were echoed by state Sen. Robert Ortt (R-North Tonawanda), state Assemblyman Stephen Hawley (R-Batavia) and Downs President/CEO Henry F. Wojtaszek.

Also on hand for the event were former Buffalo Bills great Thurman Thomas, who serves as an ambassador for Batavia Downs Gaming; directors of Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp., and Batavia Downs employees.

Ranzenhofer said he remembers 15 to 20 years ago – “what this facility was like then and what it is today is a dream come true."

"We want to make sure that this is viable and exciting for people to visit. (Expansion) plus the simple things like paving the parking lot and adding the hotel, makes it a jewel among other racinos in New York.”

“This is a long time coming,” Wojtaszek said. “We hope to complete it by the end of December.”

Wojtaszek said that the new amenities – a new cigar bar, additions to Fortune's restaurant including a new banquet area and bar, and expanded kitchen space to serve 34 Rush customers – will “increase revenue and more contributions to our communities.”

He added that he looks forward to future expansion and being able to offer sports betting.

Ortt, who noted that he had a poster of the "Thurmanator" as a Buffalo Bills’ fan when he was a youth, said the topic of gaming is a frequent one in Albany.

“We’re always talking about it … ways to make it viable and competitive,” he said. “We can see that OTB is doing the things to make it viable and competitive and to stay ahead of the curve. And the money that goes to the communities directly offsets property tax increases.”

Hawley, who also said he was a “longtime admirer of Thurman Thomas, but was not a kid while he was playing,” spoke of Batavia Downs’ rich history.

“This is the oldest flat track in America, opening in 1940 under the Provenzano family, and it is great to see it is expanding and becoming part of a new century,” he said. “It is a vital part of our economy.”

Thomas didn’t speak during the brief presentation, but said he felt “honored” to have the opportunity to promote the operation.

“I’ve always given back to the community,” he said. “It used to be in Buffalo but now that I’ve been here six or seven years, I feel like I’m part of this community. The fact that tax money goes back to the counties – that’s the most important thing.”

Batavia Downs Gaming and WROTBA is a public benefits corporation owned and operated by 15 WNY counties and the cities of Buffalo and Rochester.

Photos below -- renderings of new entrance, Gatsby bar and cigar bar (lower left). Photos by Mike Pettinella.

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Ed Hartgrove
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THERE THEY GO, AGAIN.
I'd bet a box 'o Krispy Kremes and a Pok-A-Dot Beef on 'Weck' that taxpayer money went into that "photo op".

I highly doubt any of those shovel weilders actually "broke" any ground there. Most likely, some construction worker got paid to hop on a backhoe and line up some loose dirt on the pavement (notice, if you will, there's no "hole" where the loose dirt is - DOH).

They sure got "purdy" shovels there. Are those the "special" pseudo gold-plated shovels that Lowe's keeps in limited stock, or, was money spent on: (A) sandblasting/shining used shovels, then, painting them 'gold', or, (B) even worse, buying brand new shovels and feeling the need to paint THEM.

Hopefully, the "dignitaries" drove their own private vehicles there, and purchased fuel/food from local establishments. I'm fairly certain that their presence in Batavia didn't result in more customers flocking to the "Downs". It's too bad that they couldn't have been convinced to stop in at P.W. Minor's, to buy a new pair of shoes for the photo op.

Tim Miller
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"It's too bad that they couldn't have been convinced to stop in at P.W. Minor's, to buy a new pair of shoes for the photo op."

Best comment line I've read in a while!

Christopher Putnam
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How about spending some of that money addressing actual problems at the downs. Like for instance, the hella dangerous road crossing...multiple people have been hit, traffic crawls through there. Im not an engineer or anything, but um, most places solve this with a tunnel or pedestrian bridge.
As for the shovels, what the actual fuck?
This place is a cesspool of greed and wasted money.
4 million to expand the downs. Property taxes still the highest in the nation. Poverty all around us. Bridge infrastructure in the state in crisis.
This state is ruined beyond fixing, our family is saving to move.
Despite what near special needs politicians say, we aint leaving because of the weather. We are leaving because of the high taxes, ridiculous laws, and corruption at the highest levels.
"Yeah people are leaving NY because of the weather"
wtf really?
No, we are leaving because the state is bleeding us dry in taxes, stealing from us, and making shit laws that make no sense.

Rich Richmond
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Civilian tunnels or bridges most likely must be mandated to handle handicapped people. The Downs has been there for years, and the traffic has always been bad. I worked Security there in the late 1970's before OTB. The first part of the night was directing traffic in and out, and the same after it closed. There were five or six of us on the traffic detail. I don't think the location will allow it, engineer, or not. If a tunnel or walkway were to be built, it would extend to the front entrance to halfway into the parking lot to create a ramp suitable for wheelchair access. I doubt most people would use it because the distance would be greater.

Howard B. Owens
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"multiple people have been hit ..."

I remember one pedestrian struck in the past 10 years. Searching our archives, I can find one other report. So if by "multiple" you mean two, I guess that would qualify.

C. M. Barons
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John Roach
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Ed, since the Downs is taxpayer owned, ya, taxpayer money went into all of this.

david spaulding
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Once in awhile I'll buy a lotto ticket but other than that, I'm not a gambler, However while attending a Friday night concert at Batavia Downs I ventured into the casino to see what it was all about.. I couldn't believe it as I looked around I felt like I walked into a rehabilitation center. I saw wheelchairs, electric carts, walkers, canes, neck braces on many, actually a lot, of people. The disabled population in that building was about equal to the non-disabled. I stood in dis-belief and wondered to myself...... how do all these dis-abled people afford to come in here and gamble their money away? Where does the money come from? I think we all know the answer .......

Ed Hartgrove
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David.
Two hundred people walk into the casino.
50% of them are disabled.
50% of them are not disabled.
At the end of the night, two hundred people leave the casino.
50% of them are disabled.
100% of them are disillusioned.
What're the odds?

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