How $25 million works have transformed turf club
AFTER plenty of false starts and a long battle to get things over the line, the Ipswich Turf Club has celebrated its long-awaited victory.
Saturday was a day to cherish at the Bundamba track with the 1500 people through the gates the most in a year hampered by COVID-19.
The $24.8 million redevelopment of the club, which was eventually delivered after a public stoush with Racing Queensland, was officially opened on the same day as the Spring Cup Race Day.
Club chairman Wayne Patch said 1984 was the last time the club saw any major infrastructure spending but he was thrilled with the finished product, which is about more than just racing.
The racing and entertainment precinct includes the Ipswich Events and Entertainment Centre, which is being hailed as one of the region’s premier hospitality venues.
The two-storey building, opened in March, also includes upgraded amenities for jockeys and stewards on the ground floor.
“A lot of dry gullies, a lot of false starts and a few hurdles that we’ve fallen at but it’s been worth fighting for,” he said.
“It’s racing folklore the number of false starts and anticipated plans that have been here but we’re finally here.
“It was 36 years ago this weekend (for the last major infrastructure spend). Totally coincidental.
“We’re the only club in Queensland that missed out in a very long time. There were changes of government, commissions of inquiry, all sorts of things.
“We were all systems go when (former Premier Campbell) Newman got in … but Ipswich wasn’t one of their priorities.
“We cranked it up this time and the ministerial support from (former Racing Minister) Grace Grace and (Racing Minister) Stirling Hinchliffe has been exceptional.”
New drainage and irrigation systems have been installed at the track, including pH sensors and acid injection machines to help with the salinity of the on-course irrigation water.
The project also involved widening works to T.L. Cooney Ave, new tie-up stalls and a new car park.
The upgraded Eyeliner Lounge and Thoroughbreds Lounge are both open to punters and the Barn Family Restaurant opened in July.
Markets were held on-site on Saturday before racing began and it hosted a wedding as well; the fourth at the facility in the past two months.
Club general manager Brett Kitching said the extensive redevelopment made the turf club more versatile and would set it up well into the future.
The venue currently has capacity for one person per four square metres.
The 1500 people there on Saturday was the most this year; before the coronavirus pandemic put a hold on punters at trackside, the track was being refurbished.
“It shows the new and wider use of the total facility,” he said.
“So far this is the biggest day this year.
“We had a big metropolitan meeting two months ago and there were 700 people in total at that. That was just after the COVID restrictions had reduced.
“Since then we’ve had traditional midweek provincial meetings with up to 450 people coming up to those.”
Mr Kitching said COVID had token a big toll on hospitality, events and gatherings but demand was rising as restrictions eased.
But with punters kept away trackside, interest in betting on Ipswich races had jumped during the pandemic as other sports across the globe were called off.
“This is the fourth (wedding) in the last two months,” he said.
“We had four in the previous two years.
“Racing is actually going well which was unexpected.
“There was nothing for people to wager on. Even the overseas wagering has tripled here on Ipswich racing.”
This year’s Ipswich Cup was run in front of a deserted stadium and it is not yet clear whether one of the city’s biggest social events will go ahead as usual in 2021.
“We’ll be looking to come back but it will be a bit difficult to know even what it will be,” Mr Kitching said.
“At this stage, we’re looking to go ahead with the Ipswich Cup in the same way it’s been.
“I’m sure most of Ipswich will be wanting to come out and celebrate if we can get back to that point.”
Mr Hinchliffe said the $24.8 million project, funded out of the Racing Infrastructure Fund, would make the Ipswich club more sustainable over the coming years.
“It’s a great step forward for a provincial track like this one and really is an exemplar not only in the way that it’s supporting racing but also the way it’s become a precinct for the whole community,” he said.
“This is exactly what racing can be and should be in that it adds to the sustainability of the industry and clubs like Ipswich.
“The perseverance, the reliance and the patience of the Ipswich racing community has been rewarded.”
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