Wangaratta Greyhounds Finished

Greyhound Racing Victoria (GRV) Chairman Jan Wilson has just released details detailing the closure of Wangaratta Greyhound Racing Club. Under her guidance the GRV have determined that the track requires “urgent and necessary works in regards infrastructure at Avian Park involving track, kennel/administration block and patron facilities estimated to cost in the vicinity of $6.3 million”.

Jan Wilson herself, only opened the “new” Wangaratta greyhound track with much hoopla on 17th January 2002. How, in just 7 years could the track be so run down that it requires a further $6.3 million be spent on it?

Why did the GRV commit to a large spend at Avian Park as recently as 2002, with out tying the development partner Harness Racing Victoria to a binding agreement? Harness Racing Victoria walked away from Wangaratta as a harness racing venue in 2005. Just 3 years later.

In fact as late as October 2007, Jan Wilson had given local member Ken Jasper assurances the GRV would “spend over $1 million in upgrading its facilities, the restaurant and grandstand”; and that “she confirmed their support for redevelopment of the Avian Park Raceway”

Just four months ago Mr Jasper again told parliament ther GRV had “made excellent submissions in support of a joint redevelopment of the facilities at Avian Park, which has the support of Greyhound Racing Victoria “.

Since September 2007 Greyhound Racing Victoria (GRV) has had discussions with the Wangaratta Greyhound Racing Club (WGRC), the local Member Mr. Ken Jasper, and through Mr. Doug Sharp, CEO of the Rural City of Wangaratta.

The discussions have involved scenarios that would potentially affect the future of Wangaratta’s racing facility Avian Park and more specifically the future of the Wangaratta Greyhound Racing Club (WGRC).

In this regard, a best case scenario involved a total redevelopment of Avian Park. That scenario was clearly subject to the resolution of matters pertaining to the training of harness horses at the complex and substantial partnership funding being made available to GRV.

Alternatively a worst case scenario, involved no progress on these matters whereby alternate racing and training arrangements might be considered by the GRV Board.

Since that time, it has become clear that meaningful progress on the possible development of Avian Park is fundamentally constrained by its use as a clearly limited, yet supported harness racing training facility.

Further, during a meeting WGRC President Mr. Bernie Stratton, Manager Mr. Neville Tait and the GRV Board held on Tuesday February 24th, a letter was tabled from the Rural City of Wangaratta (Council) which, while supporting WGRC endeavours to remain operational at Avian Park, provided no financial or other commitment for any future development of Avian Park or any green field site.

At the GRV Board meeting of Tuesday March 31st, 2009, a report from the Racing, Integrity and Infrastructure Department detailed urgent and necessary works in regards infrastructure at Avian Park involving track, kennel/administration block and patron facilities estimated to cost in the vicinity of $6.3 million.

Additional information regarding participant and patron statistics was also provided. Given the Board’s primary responsibility to maximize returns for the majority of participants, in the light of all of this information the GRV Board has resolved that:

  • greyhound race meetings will cease to be run at Avian Park effective June 26th, 2009.
  • the Wangaratta GRC will be supported in maintaining the Avian Park greyhound track as a trial track only, until at least December 31, 2009.
  • a review of the times that greyhound race meetings are held in the north of the state will commence immediately, but post June 30, 2009 Wangaratta GRC meetings will be transferred to Shepparton. Thus the total number of meetings held in this region will be maintained.

GRV Chairman Jan Wilson said “The GRV Board fully understands the disappointment that such decisions may bring. However, it is our sincere hope that the WGRC and its local participants can take a whole of industry perspective when considering the Board’s overall need to provide for industry sustainability and participant returns.”

Yes Jan, what you say here is completely reasonable. But perhaps you shoud’ve taken that stance seven years ago when you committed large funds to a joint development project that gave Victorian Greyhound Racing no guarantees on its investment, and let its development partner walk away “scott free”.