By PAUL POST, The Saratogian
SARATOGA SPRINGS —Joseph Torani of Saratoga Springs has been named chairman of a Saratoga Race Course Local Advisory Board that held its first-ever meeting on Monday.
The 15-member group was created under state legislation that granted New York Racing Association a new 25-year franchise to run Saratoga, Belmont Park and Aqueduct.
The board is formally charged with taking an inventory of every building and significant feature at the local track to protect its historic integrity as future improvements are made. Informally, the panel will serve as a conduit for NYRA to communicate with the public, and for residents to voice concerns to NYRA.
“I’m just absolutely passionate about bridging communication between NYRA and the community,” Torani said.
He is a partner in the Albany accounting firm Bollam, Sheedy, Torani & Co. and previously served on a state Racing Franchise Oversight Board that monitors NYRA’s business activities.
NYRA, Mayor Scott Johnson and Saratoga County made five appointments each to the advisory panel. Torani was tabbed by NYRA.
Supervisor Matthew Veitch of Saratoga Springs, who chairs the county’s Racing Committee, and Saratoga Gaming & Raceway Vice President George “Skip” Carlson will also have leadership roles on the board.
NYRA President and CEO Charles Hayward spent most of the session, held at the Holiday Inn, updating members about the upcoming racecourse meet and other matters of concern, such as the process of selecting an Aqueduct racino operator. Six firms have bid for the contract to run the gaming facility, with 4,500 video lottery terminals. NYRA is slated to get 7 percent of the racino’s revenue. Among other things, money would fund much-needed Saratoga Race Course capital projects such as new barns and backstretch worker dorms.
Hayward said NYRA is considering aesthetic changes, too, such as a tiered paddock viewing area to help fans of all ages get a closer look at the horses.
The state has hired an outside gaming consultant to help evaluate each Aqueduct bidder’s proposal, and state officials are expected to meet one-on-one next week with every firm. Hayward said an operator might be named by Labor Day Weekend.
“I think they’re going to get this done by the end of the Saratoga meet,” he said.
Even so, the state and selected entity must still work out a series of detailed formal