FIRST LOOK: How upgrades will transform Ipswich Cup
THERE were certainly a few hitches along the way but the finish line for the long overdue redevelopment of the Ipswich Turf Club is now in sight.
Earlier this year Racing Queensland decided the original refurbishment plan would not proceed due to the spiralling costs of the $13 million project, which had jumped to $19 million, throwing things into disarray.
It took the intervention of Racing Minister Stirling Hinchliffe on the eve of the Ipswich Cup in June to set things back on track.
Mr Hinchliffe, while touring the freshly constructed purpose-built function centre at the Bundamba track on Friday, announced further funding for the project and work to the track to a total of $24.8 million.
The redevelopment will be delivered in full, including new tie-up stalls which had been controversially scrapped from plans in May and a 128-space car park.
The function centre, which houses steward rooms and dedicated facilities for male and female jockeys on the ground floor, was used for the first time at a race meet on Wednesday.
For the past year jockeys have been using temporary dongas.
The centre can seat just under 300 people and about double that with standing room, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year once it is completely fitted out.
Turf club chairman Wayne Patch said it would be the "envy" of clubs across the region.
"This will be the biggest and best by quite a considerable margin," he said.
"This is a fully integrated stand alone facility that does everything from looking after members, owners, trainers, stewards and the public all in the one building.
"The jockeys and stewards obviously get around all of the racetracks, not just in south east Queensland, but all over Australia and they rate it as good as they can see."
From the end of October, the track will close for racing for about five months for considerable work to be completed.
Over the past three years 13 race meetings have been lost due to weather events, with even small amounts rain enough to cause cancellations.
"A new drainage system is going to be placed around the entire track," Mr Patch said.
"A whole new pop up sprinkler system (will be put in place) which enables us to manage the track a lot better. Hopefully this will mitigate (the problem) considerably."
While work on the track is being done, existing race day stalls and sheds will be demolished to make way for the car park and another 128 stalls will be constructed on the other side of the Bundamba facility.
"That will all be finished by April next year... we'll be back racing well and truly by Labor Day 2020," Mr Patch said.
"That frees up that entire Brisbane Rd frontage for us to start negotiating a joint venture with someone to commercial develop that which will give us a funding opportunity forever which has been our major goal from the start."
The overhaul will signal a new era for the popular Ipswich Cup day, which hosted more than 20,000 people this year despite the track resembling a "construction site."
The infamous pig pen will return in a new format.
"Next year it will be fully functional and it will just be something like people have never seen before," Mr Patch said.
"I have no doubt we'll break every previous record."
Mr Hinchliffe said the new facilities have set a new benchmark for Queensland.
"As Queensland Racing Minister I get to see the top line facilities not only here in Queensland but in other parts of the country and this is up there with them," he said.
"There's been a historic under provision of facilities for female jockeys and this is one great example of how we're addressing that.
"My only fear is jockeys demanding it everywhere after they see what's going to be here in Ipswich. That's the benchmark I think we all need to be aspiring to to make sure they get looked after."
Bundamba MP Jo-Ann Miller said it had been "worth every blow in the fight" to get it over the line.
"(The function centre) is good for the entire community, it's not just for the turf club," she said.
"We'll be able to have this facility open for other clubs in the area... it's fantastic for the local community."