Cheltenham Race Course Presses On With New Stand
The capacity of the Cheltenham race course "will approach the 80,000 that can be accommodated by Ascot following the long-awaited construction of a third new grandstand," according to Greg Wood of the London GUARDIAN. Work on the development could start within 18 months, which would mean that "the 2016 Festival meeting would be the first to take place in front of the completed facility." The pace of local planning procedures "will determine precisely when work on the new stand, which will increase the capacity by at least 10,000, can begin." It will be necessary to demolish the current buildings on the site including the royal box and a number of annual members' boxes immediately after one festival meeting in March in order to complete work in time for the festival two years later. Edward Gillespie, who is now in his final few weeks as Cheltenham's managing director after 32 years in the role, said at the annual launch for the track's new season that the stand will be the "largest single development ever undertaken" at the course. Its construction will be overseen by Gillespie's successor Ian Renton who expects a planning application to be submitted in the new year. Gillespie said, "It will be a very substantial building replacing the current royal box, which was built in 1952, and about 45 other boxes, which are fairly basic and were built in the 1920s and 1930s." However, until the new facility is complete attendance at Gold Cup day, the final and most popular day for the Festival meeting, "will be capped at 67,000, in response to complaints from some racegoers about crowding at last year's event." Racing returns to the main track at Cheltenham on Oct. 19 (GUARDIAN, 10/10).
MORE MONEY: In London, Alan Lee reported that in addition to the new construction project the racecourse announced "increased prize money and sponsorship, revealed a potential Australasian challenge at the Festival and vigorously defended the cross-country races that some would wish to see discarded." Regional Head of Racing Simon Claisse said that £5.5M ($8.8M) in prize money will be on offer this season, with the racecourse contributing £3.4M ($5.5M). And £70,000 ($112,000) has been added to both the Showcase and the Open meeting in November, at which the Paddy Power Gold Cup will offer a new high of £160,000 ($256,000) (LONDON TIMES, 10/11).