Last year it was chaos leaving Belmont Stakes Day whether travelling by train or automobile, chaos in the seating areas and running out of food and beverages. This year, there is a real possibility that fans walking up to a ticket gate will not be able to get in even if the event is not sold out.
David Grening, writing at drf.com, reports that even with 19,000 general admission tickets still available at noon on Monday, New York Racing Association spokesperson John Durso Jr. has said that NYRA will not sell tickets at the track even if the event is not sold out.
While it took almost a year for NYRA’s CEO Chris Kay to acknowledge substantial problems with last year’s Belmont Stakes experience, he has taken steps to address many of the issues. Platforms on the Long Island Rail Road have been expanded, allowing for more cars in the station. There is a plan for exiting the parking lots. Food trucks have been expanded significantly, and Wi-Fi capability has been enhanced. And, attendance has been capped at 90,000, some 12,000 short of last year’s number.
While there are no longer reserved seat tickets, general admission tickets are still available through Ticketmaster, but NYRA has consistently said tickets will not be available on a walk-up basis. Unlike the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, Belmont’s infield is not open to spectators, so I do not have a problem with capping attendance. It makes sense. It also makes sense to try to sell as many tickets in advance as possible, expediting the entrance of fans to the track.
But if NYRA does not sell all of those 19,000 remaining seats and adheres to their policy, we all know who is going to be turned away at the track. It is the long-time fan who has been going to the track – and probably the Belmont Stakes – for years and is accustomed to walking up and plunking down the admission price. Should that happen – and we all know it will if there are unsold seats – what will be NYRA’s response to the inevitable critical media coverage?
A hallmark of this NYRA administration has been a stubborn refusal to listen to common-sense suggestions. There is no conceivable good explanation for why fans will be denied admission for an event that has not reached capacity. CEO Kay is fond of citing other professional sports franchises for their ticketing policies. But I have never heard of a fan being turned away from a sporting event when there are unsold tickets.