Plans for a £45M ($68M) redevelopment of England's flagship Cheltenham Racecourse "have been revealed by the Jockey Club," according to Bill Wilson of the BBC. The proposed development "would create a state-of-the-art new grandstand in place of the current 'A&R' block, built in the 1920s." In the past 30 years, the Jockey Club has invested £80M ($121M) in facilities at Cheltenham. The facelift will increase capacity and improve facilities, and calls for "the demolition of the current royal box, which was built in 1952, and 55 other boxes built in the 1920s and 1930s." It will also include a major new grandstand -- "which will feature new members' facilities, public viewing areas, private boxes and royal box facilities -- the plans also include improvements for owners and trainers." There will be improved bar facilities, more toilets, "and further viewing opportunities of the racing and the parade ring." A walkway for horses will be constructed, passing under a spectator walkway, "and it is hoped the new designs will improve crowd circulation on the busiest days" (BBC, 3/28).
PLENTY OF SUPPORT: In London, Chris Cook wrote an expected controversy "was rather hard to locate" as plans were unveiled. The £45M project will take 22 months to complete and "is intended to improve the raceday experience for spectators without costing so much as to require increases in ticket price or crowd size, or a reduction in prize money." Three newspapers "had raised the possibility of protests" at this event by those who have long retained boxes at favorable rates within the cluster of buildings now marked for demolition. There was no evidence of any such action and "it appears those boxholders have little chance of disrupting the development." Their rearguard action to obtain listed status for one of the buildings, which is almost 100 years old, "is not feared by the Jockey Club." Jockey Club CEO Simon Bazalgette said, "We have had confirmation from English Heritage that it doesn't meet any of the necessary criteria." He added that the doomed buildings could absorb no more than 1,500 people on a raceday, making them "incredibly inefficient," whereas the new stand will hold 6,500. The proposed building has no name yet and indeed the naming rights "may be sold to a sponsor to defray the cost of construction" (GUARDIAN, 3/28).
BIGGER AND BETTER: Also in London, Marcus Townend wrote the 1,500 spectators now housed in the New Stand, who will be offered their own dedicated facility in the new build, will be accommodated for in "temporary facilities during construction but racing at the track will not be interrupted." Jockey Club racourses South West Regional Director Ian Renton said, "There will be some disruption but it will be kept to a minimum during that period." JCR Managing Director Paul Fisher denied that "the development will be forced to cater for the richer bigger-spending and corporate guests." Fisher: "It will be financed through a range of commercially efficient methods to be announced over the coming weeks. This is not just a Grandstand for corporate, but will improve the experience for all racegoers." However, plans do include a "Super Club," with facilities on the top floor "which will be something like the Royal Ascot Racing Club" (DAILY MAIL, 3/28). The LONDON TIMES wrote the Jockey Club investment "will include improvements for owners and trainers, and focus on enhancing the overall customer experience at the racecourse, including elevated walkways to ease mobility and multi-tiered viewing of the parade ring" (LONDON TIMES, 3/28). REUTERS' Keith Weir wrote subject to planning permission, "work will begin after next year's festival and the course will remain open for its normal racing programme during the improvements" (REUTERS, 3/28).