As an avid race fan, I always think about how racing can get more people of the "younger" generation to come out. I'm not talking about little kids or even teenagers, I'm talking 20-year-olds and even 30-year-olds. But everyone always asks how that age group can be brought into racing without actually looking into it.
As one of the few fans in the age group listed above, I feel pretty confident that I can at least give a few ideas to help the racing industry. Come along with me as we look at seven ideas I have come up with.
Even though it's not what we want to hear, my generation goes to events not just to watch the show but also to have a good time. A $5 beverage does not attract fans to an already dying sport.
Plus, a $6 burger is something most people won't buy. If they won't buy it, they'll get hungry and leave to go somewhere else and most likely won't come back.
Lower the food and beverage costs, up the attendance count.
Some tracks are on the right foot bringing in bands for after race activities, but they need to be more name brand bands, not bands no one has heard of.
While you will have those that come in just for the band, have discounted tickets for those that come for the races as well. This generation, especially the poor college kids, can't pass up cheap tickets.
We need constant action to keep our attention.
At Portland Meadows there's a downtime of maybe five to 10 minutes between the end of a race and the next field coming to the paddock. While the horses are lower level claimers, it keeps the card moving and the people interested. The card is done in about four to four and a half hours, which is about the amount of time our attention span lasts at an event.
People like going to places where they think they can get their money back. Heck, even a t-shirt contest will bring in people because they feel that some of their money is getting them something.
Tracks need to have free hat (or other merchandise) giveaways and advertise it as much as possible. More people come when they get more out of it than just watching horses run around a track. Plus, if the items have the track's name on it, there's free advertising.
Give out stuff and you'll attract a crowd.
Let the fans have a chance to meet trainers/jockeys/even horses (it doesn't even have to be racehorses).
We all love to meet famous people, even if it's a racehorse trainer people will come. Heck, I would be the first in line to meet Todd Pletcher, Bob Baffert, or even some local track hero.
Bring in a local celebrity and people will come. Bring in a Derby winner and you'll have people flocking in to get their autograph.
Tracks need to cut the cost on programs and other things that people should have in order to bet as well as cutting costs to get into the track.
I understand that printing costs need to be made back, but a $5 program for a card full of claimers is a little steep when you pay the same to buy a program for the Breeders' Cup races.
Having $7 admission also makes money for the track, but when you have a card full of claimers with maybe one field of maidens or allowance horses you aren't going to attract many people, especially people that don't care too much about racing to start with.
Other than the Triple Crown and Breeder's Cup, televised racing events aren't advertised often and events at local tracks are rarely heavily promoted.
Even little tracks can promote themselves by buying a spot on the radio, an ad in the paper or a sponsorship for a segment on the news. People can't come if they don't know about it and more often than not, no one knows what is going on at their local track unless they are on the inside or already at the track all the time.