Urbis Think Tank
Repositioning Racecourses for future viability
While horse racing has been a key fixture of the Australian sporting landscape for well over a century there are a range of threats to sustaining revenue streams. There is also considerable pressure on land holders with large sites in inner urban areas to maximise the use and value of such sites – to which many racetracks across our capital cities can lay title.
The 2007 equine influenza hammered horse racing in NSW and QLD and the rise and rise of online wagering has added another significant issue to “getting people to the track”. It is estimated that in 2006 over 2 million people attended horse races. This figure had dropped to under 1.4 million in 2008 and most pundits expect a similarly flat patronage outlook for the next 5 years (IBISWorld 2011).
Against this challenging backdrop various racetracks across Australia have embarked on ambitious programs to redevelop and reposition themselves with multi-pronged entertainment and service offers, in addition to examination of alternative uses for their prime inner urban land. Urbis has been working with several racetracks in this regard including the AJC to redevelop Royal Randwick into a seven-day-a-week destination. The master plan includes an upgrade of the existing facilities and introduction of complimentary uses such as a hotel, health facilities and commercial offices.
The upgrade of the existing facilities will see the existing grandstands upgraded into contemporary entertainment and leisure related spaces that are better suited for a better racing viewing experience and equally suitable for other entertainment related functions on non-racing related days. A feature of the new design is the new “theatre of the horse” that, based upon the latest overseas examples, engages the spectators in the horse related activities before and after the race itself.
Examinations of alternative land uses for racecourses include potential residential developments. Urbis has been working with a number of racing clubs to assess the potential for residential developments, to ensure that the social impacts are acceptable to the local communities.
With the large land areas available, some proposals provide the opportunity for substantial developments. Councils are likely to consider these developments as a significant opportunity to negotiate positive outcomes for the broader community in addition to new residents within the developments. However, Urbis’ Social Policy team is working closely with the clubs to ensure that any proposal considers issues such as traffic and transport, passive open space, and community facilities.
For more information email Paul Altree-Williams