BATAVIA – To complete a major renovation, Batavia Downs Gaming will do what such venues do rarely and reluctantly: shut off operations for four days.
The bells and whistles on hundreds of video lottery terminals were silent early Monday and will remain so until Friday when a grand opening will unveil relocated slots, new restaurants and an indoor waterfall.
All are part of $27 million in renovations at the revived historic harness racing site that dates to 1940.
It’s the first prolonged shutdown at the racetrack since owner-operator Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. installed the first VLTs eight years ago.
The week’s scheduled four nights of racing will not be affected. Tuesday and Wednesday will have guides steering fans through the construction maze to trackside or grandstand seating. At noon Friday the 100,000-square-foot gambling space will reopen with more than 770 VLTs, many new and all on the grandstand’s ground floor.
Since the 2005 opening, the machines – technically not slots since they use scrip instead of money and are controlled from a central location – have filled the second floor.
There are three new restaurants too. Thurman Thomas 34 Rush sports bar – shaped like a football – honors the Buffalo Bills legend. A trackside Homestretch Grille will overlook the finish line. Fortuna’s, with Italian food a speciality, will be more upscale. For diversion there is a waterfall cascading at the entrance.
The grandstand also has a new smoking room, walled in from surrounding space and ventilated for players and its own rows of slots.