The first of what is said to be several phases of severe cutbacks at Santa Anita Park will result in layoffs of about a third of the approximately 300 employees at the track.
Officials announced Wednesday that 100 full-time and part-time workers will be terminated as part of a major restructuring under new Stronach Entertainment CEO and President Greg Avioli. Stronach Entertainment recently became the new parent company of Santa Anita.
Longtime VP of marketing Allen Gutterman is stepping down as part of the reorganization.
Former head of group sales Chris Quinn has been promoted to Vice President of Sales and Marketing and will oversee the merger of three departments, marketing, sales and public relations.
Avioli said in Wednesday’s announcement that in addition to racing-related sales and marketing, Quinn will be charged with expanding the track’s entertainment offerings.
Santa Anita won approval only last month from the Arcadia City Council to stage all manner of entertainment events at the track — on the parking lot and in the infield.
“We are focused on making Santa Anita a better racing facility and, at the same time, expanding its profile as a regional entertainment center offering other amenities in addition to racing and during our off-season,” Avioli said.
The moves come only days after Santa Anita opened its first Autumn Meet without Oak Tree Racing since the 1960s. After a crowd of about 5,500 on Opening Day last Friday — dubbed Arcadia Day, officials announced crowds of more than 16,000 on Saturday with bets totaling $2,716,576 during another popular Food Truck Festival, and more than 8,000 on Sunday with an on-track handle of $1,784,574.
The track is open four days a week during the one-month Autumn Meet.
Santa Anita was recently awarded the industry’s biggest global weekend racing event, the Breeders’ Cup, in fall 2012.
The reorganization includes merging of some departments, streamlining of finance and operations departments and a reduction in management and seasonal workforce, officials said.
“This is the first phase of an initiative to position Santa Anita to compete in today’s economic climate and to provide the best possible racing and entertainment product for our customers,” said Avioli. “We are confident that our restructuring will benefit our organization, California horsemen, racing fans and other local stakeholders. We also want to thank those people whose positions are being consolidated or eliminated for their service and work on behalf of Santa Anita.”
Quinn is a veteran of sports marketing, having begun his career at Steinberg Sports. He has worked in professional boxing and tennis in addition to his horse racing experience.
“In a time of industry consolidation and when more and more handle is being generated off-track, new approaches are needed to move the industry forward,” said Avioli.
“Chris has done an outstanding job over the last few years as an ambassador for Santa Anita to the local business, media andentertainment communities and to generate sponsorships and revenue through creative uses of our facility. The timing was right on this as Allen had indicated to me this summer that he was considering other opportunities and was looking to make a change before the end of the year. Allen has done a tremendous job in his six years at Santa Anita and we are grateful for his contributions.”
Also, as part of the reorganization, long-time Santa Anita racing secretary Rick Hammerle will become Vice President, Racing and Racing Secretary. Hammerle has been a fixture on the Southern California racing circuit for years and has also worked as a senior racing official at Gulfstream Park, Golden Gate, Del Mar, Monmouth Park and the Meadowlands.
“Rick enjoys the respect of the horsemen of Southern California who we rely upon to produce our racing program as well as his peers in the Thoroughbred racing industry for his creativity and work ethic,” said George Haines, Santa Anita’s President and General Manager.
Stronach Entertainment, a subsidiary of The Stronach Group, also owns and operates Golden Gate Fields, Gulfstream Park and Casino, the Maryland Jockey Club, including Pimlico and Laurel race tracks, Portland Meadows, XpressBet and HRTV.
— By Scott Hettrick