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Fall 2007

Copper Roof Crowns Historic Saratoga Track Renovation

New Shine and Sparkle Restored to Victorian-era Architectural Jewel

A new copper roof covers the back clubhouse at Saratoga Race Course. Copper was specified to help maintain the structure's historic appearance.

Every August since 1864, the oldest operating racetrack in the country, Saratoga Race Course, has drawn betting fans, vacationers, celebrities and the elite echelons of high society by the thousands to this woodsy whistle-stop in upstate New York.

They come to watch the ponies run, of course, but also to celebrate the sheer spectacle of racing that revolves around this glamorous, whitewashed, Victorian-era architectural icon. This year, a $1.3 million improvement program put some much-needed sparkle back into America’s crown jewel of racetracks, with lavishly renovated horse barns and interior appointments befitting a betting palace of this stature—all capped off with a shining new 10,000 square-foot copper clubhouse roof.

Maintaining the track’s fabled photogenic appearance was the highest priority throughout the renovation. “The integrity of the architecture and the historical character were paramount,” explained Saratoga Facility Manager Charles Wheeler, of the New York Racing Association (NYRA). When it came to replacing the aging clubhouse roof, he added, “Copper was the only material on the list. There really was no other option.”

The NYRA, which has operated the historic site for more than a half century, kicked off the 139th summer racing season with the debut of the completed renovation, a project that has added new features as well as more flare to the venerable racetrack. Aside from the renovated roof and horse barns, race fans now enjoy such modern amenities as hot water in all the restrooms, along with 37 new covered television-viewing areas that allow visitors to keep an eye on the action when not at trackside.

The contractor for the clubhouse roof, WeatherGuard Roofing of Schenectady, NY, had little difficulty meeting the challenge—despite the age and overriding importance of the site, and the absolute necessity of retaining the structure’s Victorian charm while modernizing it.

“It went extremely well,” said Steve Bradt, WeatherGuard’s project manager. Bradt agreed with the NYRA’s choice of copper for the roof as “necessary for the historic preservation of Saratoga.”

The roof replaced an existing copper roof of ancient but indeterminate age that was beyond repair. The new roof, which is composed of multiple 16-ounce-weight solid copper panels, was fabricated onsite from materials produced by Revere Copper Products of Rome, NY, and supplied by Admiral Building Products, also located in New York.

With track attendance already surpassing expected numbers this season, Saratoga Race Course continues to be a major attraction for vacationers from the region and across the country. While the recent improvements might not be the most important reason for visiting, according to many who have seen the change, it certainly adds to their enjoyment.

“People were ecstatic when they saw some of the improvements around the facilities,” Wheeler said. “It’s really been quite rewarding." Cu

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