Created: August 01, 2020 11:56 PM
CANANDAIGUIA N.Y. (WHEC) – It's a Saturday night race night at Land of Legends Raceway in Canandaigua, and it had all the familiar sights and sounds except for one: with the exception of track staff and some pit crews, the grandstands were empty.
Track President Paul Cole compares it to the Beatles performing for nobody.
"It's depressing, there's nothing more frustrating than not knowing where you're going," he says,
Per Governor Cuomo’s emergency order, racetracks were allowed to resume racing in early June, but without fans. A few racetracks, including Land of Legends, allowed fans to attend a couple of races, however.
News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke first covered the track in early July. At that time, Cole and other directors cited a federal court ruling over capacity control as a reason for allowing fans in. Just a couple of weeks after the piece ran, Land of Legends held yet another fan-included race, and Cole says he was issued a ‘cease and desist’ order in response.
He says the order was only for fans, not for holding races in general.
Quietly, Governor Cuomo extended the order preventing fans for another 30 days. Anyone caught in violation could receive up to a $10,000 fine, or a suspension of their license.
Cole says those rules are clear, but what's not is when the fans can come back or why they haven't been allowed back yet. He says he’s keeping in contact with the state, but still isn’t getting an answer.
"There's no explanation as to why you can have 50% at the beach, or 50% at the park and not 50% in the grandstands," Cole says.
It’s an issue that has hit the courts. So far, five racetracks, including the Genesee Speedway in Batavia, have filed a joint lawsuit against the governor and State Attorney General Letitia James.
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York court records show track owners argue their rights are being violated, and the goal is to put the order on pause and bring the fans back.
Cole says he's also working with his attorney to figure out the next steps.
"Give us the opportunity to work together, if we're not producing income, the state's only going to get further in the hole too," Cole says.
Cole says the track plans to hold at least six more races between now and the end of August.
Copyright 2020 - WHEC-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company