BATAVIA – Joan Barton can’t imagine Batavia Downs without its iconic rooftop sign, a glowing landmark since 1954.
When she read the sign would be replaced this year with an LED model, she worried.
“That sign has been a part of Batavia for so long,” said Barton, chairperson of the City of Batavia Historic Preservation Commission. “It’s so recognizable. It’s immediate recognition, even from the Thruway.”
Barton sent a letter on behalf of the commission to Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp., the owners of the race track on Park Road. The commission doesn’t have jurisdiction over the Downs because the track isn’t an official historic landmark, plus part of the site is outside the city.
But Barton and commission wanted to urge WROTB to put up a new sign that closely resembles the current one.
That has been the plan all along, said Michael Kane, WROTB president and CEO. The new sign will have the same 12-foot-high letters as the current one, and will match the Art Deco design. Kane said the new sign will be a vast improvement over the existing one.
“It will be operating all of the time, instead of part of the time,” he said. “It will be brighter and use less energy.”
The current sign with its neon tubing and wiring has been increasingly prone to disrepair. Sometimes portions of the letters are lit while other sections are dark. The sign is brittle.
Kane and WROTB officials would like to preserve the letters B and D from the sign and use them as a decorative piece at the track. But that’s only if the letters can be salvaged. Other letters, if they prove durable, may be offered to local museums.
WROTB has hired Premier Sign Systems LLC in Rochester to create the new LED sign for $123,441. The company is building the sign off-site.
Kane expects the new sign will go up in September, after a new roof is put on. The corporation is replacing the low roof over the video gaming operation and the high roof over the grand stands and clubhouse dining area. Elmer R. Davis of Rochester is doing the work for $1,087,677.
Barton praised WROTB for its efforts with the sign.
“It’s wonderful that they are keeping the same look of the sign,” she said. “It really is a landmark for this area.”