Cirque du Soleil’s Kooza keeps Sam Houston Race Park buzzing


by Jeremy Desel / KHOU 11 News

Posted on August 16, 2012 at 7:14 PM

HOUSTON—Horse racing at the Sam Houston Race Park track wrapped up in May, but there is plenty of traffic, at least for a couple more weeks, thanks to Cirque du Soleil.

Cirque Du Soleil has its business mastered with more than a dozen companies performing around the world.

“We get paid to perform, and do what we love to do,” said Stuart McKenzie, a teeterboard performer.

Currently Kooza is making an impact in Houston.

“Every time we come to a new city there is a new energy. It is how you adapt to this energy,” said Genevieve Deslandes, the tour manager for Kooza.

The impact is not just with near capacity audiences every night or 100 local jobs for everything from security to seamstresses, and for the nearly two-month stay Cirque Du Soleil pays to park.

”We help them, they help us a lot. It is like a good landlord. You can’t find these very easily, but when you have a good one you hold on to it,” Deslandes said.

Sam Houston Race Park is doing all it can to fill the lot that is vacant much of the year.

The racing industry is in decline all over the country.

Sam Houston Race Park helps itself by scheduling concerts and offering free admission in the summer to its simulcast operation.

”The race season does not last the whole year, so we fill in a gap. A gap when it is a little more quiet,” Deslandes said.

During their six-week run more than 100,000 Houstonians are expected to see Kooza, the same as the attendance during the entire quarter-horse racing season in 2010.