Things just keep looking up for Saratoga horse racing fans. About a month after New York State allowed sports and entertainment venues with seating for at least 10,000 people to reopen at 10 percent capacity, Governor Andrew Cuomo has today announced an increase in those capacity caps.
Starting on April 1, regional sports venues that hold at least 1,500 people indoors or 2,500 people outdoors can reopen at 10 percent indoor capacity and 20 percent outdoor capacity. Although it doesn’t yet apply to racetracks like Saratoga Race Course, it could eventually. “Governor Cuomo’s decision to expand capacity limits for sports fans beginning this April is incredibly welcome news as we look toward the spring and summer,” says Patrick McKenna, NYRA’s senior director of communications. “NYRA will work closely with the New York State Department of Health and the New York State Gaming Commission to secure the requisite approvals to welcome fans back to Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course in 2021. As COVID-19 cases continue to decline and vaccines become more widely available, we are optimistic that capacity limits will increase in the coming months.”
In addition to the changes regarding regional sports venues, Cuomo also announced that outdoor performing arts venues that hold more than 2,500 fans can reopen at 20 percent on April 1. This would, theoretically, include Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC), whose outdoor amphitheater seats more than 5,000. However, SPAC’s summer season is almost entirely contingent on Live Nation hosting shows there, as well as the annual residencies by the New York City Ballet (NYCB) and Philadelphia Orchestra. If those three players—Live Nation, NYCB and the Philadelphia Orchestra—commit, it seems Saratogians will indeed have some sort of summer SPAC season to look forward to. While SPAC wouldn’t comment on any of the specific, President and CEO Elizabeth Sobol did tell us this: “The announcement from the Governor’s Office today represents a huge breakthrough for us and other outdoor presenters on our way to re-opening. With these guidelines in place, we are hopeful that we will be able to begin announcing programming plans for the first half of the Summer within the next few weeks.”
There is one thing about Cuomo’s announcement that was explicit, though: the New York Yankees and New York Mets will kick off their 2021 seasons on April 1 with fans in the stands. Play ball!