The Maryland Racing Commission yesterday approved an increase in the price of Preakness tickets in a third of the seating areas at Pimlico Race Course, including a $2 jump for day-of-race infield admission.
It will now cost $20 to enter the infield on race day, although pre-sale tickets remain at $15.
"Four years ago we decided on a plan to get the cost up to $20, which we've taken in stages," said Laurel/Pimlico senior vice president of mutuels and development Jim Mango, who represented the tracks at the meeting.
"We feel the infield is crowded, and we like it that way. But at the same time we want the price to reflect the crowd that's in there and let everybody know it's going to be tame. Last year, it was extremely tame."
Mango doubts that infield admission would be raised again "unless we do things like starting to add seats."
New Preakness prices for seats are as follows: $140 for Sports Palace reserved seats; $120 for grandstand lower-box seats; $110 for grandstand upper-box seats and $50 for grandstand upper-reserved seats.
The commission also voted to raise parking fees. It will now cost $60 to park in the Hayward Preferred Lot; $30 for the Preakness Way Lot and $25 for the Maple-Belvedere Preferred Lot.
Other prices have not increased. "We rotate areas each year where we are going to increase prices," Mango said. "Overall, its about a 3 percent raise."
Beware of automatic tellers
The racing board listened to commissioner Allan Levy yesterday read a letter from a fan who complained that an automatic teller machine ate his winning ticket and caused him to lose an $18 payoff.
Mango acknowledged there has been widespread problems with the machines, including the closing night at the Pimlico live meet (Oct. 3) when a number of ticket vouchers were stuck in the machines.
Mango walked through the betting areas, handing out money to people who could not retrieve their tickets.
"Unfortunately, we have 250 to 300 teller-less terminals located at all seven of our betting outlets," Mango said. "When there is a blip in the system, even for something like 30 seconds, all the self-service terminals have to be reset. The question is how to get service to them on an emergency basis. We'd need to hire 80 people to be available at all times."
Problems arise when people are afraid to leave the terminals to get a technician's help for fear someone will remove their voucher. There are not enough technicians and too many malfunctions, according to some fans.
Commissioner Jack Mosner suggested that the tracks' plainclothes security guards should be taught to handle automatic-teller problems. Commissioner Ernest Colvin suggested that notices be put on the terminals explaining what to do if they malfunction.