Attracting new generations of fans to the majesty and excitement of Thoroughbred racing is a goal of every racetrack operator.
Tampa Bay Downs has made steady strides in that area in recent years. The track's “Kids & Family Days” gatherings on Sundays in February and March – featuring pony rides, games and bounce houses – are always well-attended. The Picnic Pavilion Area is a popular gathering spot for families with young children throughout the meeting, suitable for packing a picnic lunch and basking in the sunshine.
Last season, Tampa Bay Downs introduced a series of “Generation Z” races, inviting youngsters to the winner's circle to meet members of the jockey colony and join a group photograph. The races were a big hit with the public, and return with Sunday's fifth race.
And children gather like honeybees when track mascot Mouse the Miniature Horse makes an appearance.
Such promotions create feel-good moments, but getting a decent percentage of those kids to return as adults – with discretionary income suitable for wagering – is vital if the sport is to thrive.
That's why Tampa Bay Downs is turning to “Millennials” and members of “Generation Z,” if we must affix labels, to keep the ideas flowing.
On Saturday, Jan. 18, the track will conduct its second annual “College Day” essay contest, giving current U.S. junior, sophomore and freshmen college students, as well as U.S. high school seniors planning to enroll in college, a chance to win one of five $2,000 scholarships.
Students of four-year colleges, two-year colleges, technical schools and high school seniors are eligible.
To enter, students must complete an entry form that will be available on Jan. 18 at the Customer Service Desk and complete it by the end of that day's racing. From those entries, 25 finalists will be drawn at random and given an opportunity to submit an essay of 300-to-500 words on “Marketing Horse Racing To a New Generation of Fans.”
Essays should emphasize initiatives aimed at attracting and keeping new followers of racing. The deadline for entries is Feb. 8, with students submitting their essays to the General Office or the Publicity Office on the second floor.
Judges will rank the essays based on the feasibility of the plan, originality, an understanding of the horse racing industry, clarity and grammar and spelling. Past winners are eligible to compete, but all essays must be original and cannot present previous themes and/or approaches.
The scholarships will be awarded through the Upper Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce Educational Foundation. For details, call (813) 855-4401, extension 1368.
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