Rising to the highest level by climbing the circular staircase, you come to the restaurant level. There, I was greeted by a friendly maitre de and looked over an elaborate buffet with a wide assortment of foods to please every palate. Each table in the restaurant came equipped with two television screens to enable patrons to catch the action both at Northville and at numerous tracks throughout the country. After scoping it out, I returned to the lower level and grabbed a hot dog and a Coke. The refreshment stand woman was friendly, but not very busy. One observation I have is that the fast food offerings could have a bit more variety. Hot dogs and Italian sausages just don’t cut it with the food diversity other entertainment venues offer. Then again, if I was truly all that hungry, the buffet on the third floor looked fantastic.
City of Northville
The biggest change in the track over the years is the number of TVs. Simulcasting has lead to televisions and tables set up everywhere. The lower level grandstand seats (which sit right above the finish line) were surprisingly empty. Most of the people in this area were in the corridors and bar areas where tables, chairs and television screens provided all the information they needed. Still, as every race was run, a good crowd would assemble with me out in the open air at the finish line where the dirt flies off the hoofs of the horses as they charge to the finish – a spectacular site.
As with any form of entertainment, the key to the customer having a good time is customer service. Everywhere I went, I played dumb (not much of a stretch) and asked many questions. The staff couldn’t have been better, taking the time to patiently deal with me. A quick thank you to the friendly, humorous Ms. Kucharczyk who provided me with a wide variety of educational pointers on the mechanics of track wagering.
If the Detroit casinos are hurting the racetracks, I certainly saw no evidence of it on Saturday night. All in all, I had a wonderful time at a facility that is vastly different from a casino environment. Over time, as the tracks implement some of the changes that Michigan’s Racing Commissioner is urging, I think the tracks will more than hold their own. They will be able to: (1) make the experience easy for newcomers; (2) add some music or other variety element at least in one corner of the track, but keep other areas the way they are now for the serious horse players, and (3) do a bit more to promote and glorify the horses and the drivers, which, after all, are what make the sport so great.