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Sunday, March 29, 2015 at 6:35 pm

Great Batavia Train Show

post 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.

 

Friday, February 27, 2015 at 1:44 pm

City ready to move quickly on Batavia Downs hotel project

post 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."

Saturday, February 21, 2015 at 4:54 pm

Photos: A hall of famer, a Heisman Trophy winner a pitching legend at Batavia Downs

post 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.

Monday, December 22, 2014 at 8:03 pm

Photos: New Batavia Downs entrance is open

post 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.

Friday, November 21, 2014 at 4:19 pm

Batavia Downs cancels live races tonight and tomorrow night

post by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, harness racing, sports

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.

Sunday, November 16, 2014 at 5:41 pm

Western Alumni brushes late to score in the Batavia Downs feature

post by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, harness racing, sports

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.

Thursday, November 6, 2014 at 4:30 pm

Driver Jake Baumeister injured in Batavia Downs spill

post by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, harness racing, sports

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.”

Thursday, November 6, 2014 at 8:17 am

Bazooka Terror tallies her 10th triumph at Batavia Downs; Three horses involved in 8th race accident

post by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, harness racing, sports

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.

Thursday, October 30, 2014 at 8:45 pm

Kevin Cummings scores another quintuple at Batavia Downs

post by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, harness racing, sports

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.

Thursday, October 30, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Photos: New escalators being installed at Batavia Downs

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia Downs, business

Batavia Downs is in the home stretch of a $20 million expansion that includes a new gaming floor, a new sign, new offices, and in the final phase, a new facade and entry on Park Road.

Today, a pair of 7,500-pound escalators are being installed and soon a statue of Fortuna, the goddess of good luck, will arrive from Wisconsin.

With the last major pieces in place, it's just a matter of putting on the finishing touches.

The new gaming floor, now on the first floor, opened last October. The old gaming floor on the second level is now offices for Batavia Downs and Western OTB staff.

The escalator to the second floor will provide access to the clubhouse and grandstands as well as a new OTB inter-track wagering facility, which will move from its current location across the street on Park Road.

The entry way will feature lighted neon and Fortuna will stand through a hole in the ceiling so she can be viewed from ground level or from up above.

"It's just going to look incredible," said Ryan Hasenauer, marketing director for Batavia Downs.

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