Wheels In Motion For South Australian Greyhound Industry
The city of Adelaide has long had a stigma of being resistant to change and reluctant to progress. Known as a ‘backwater' for many years, this impression of over-conservatism has plagued the Festival State for decades and it was only a matter of time before someone starting the ball rolling again.
Thankfully, in recent times the wheels have started turning for what was becoming a stagnating metropolis, with new construction projects and upgrades to existing infrastructure being approved in all directions. Soon Adelaide will have a new centralised stadium, and new highway, a madeover shopping district, a CBD centerpiece and brand new landmark hospital giving a sense of pride and excitement to its very patient public. Moreover, it means interstate and overseas travelers will return to Adelaide, without the assumption that nothing has changed since their last visit.
What is even more exciting, is the realisation that Greyhound Racing South Australia (GRSA) has been inspired by the wider environment, has begun implementing its strategic plan to invigorate an industry that has been wilting away for far too long.
Along with some housekeeping to regional tracks, prizemoney distribution and the addition of short-course racing, the process is now really gathering legs, with the complete overhaul of the Gawler kennel-house and patron facilities currently being undertaken.
Recognising that the current set-up had not been touched in over 40 years, GRSA have found it imperative to focus on as much of the off-track infrastructure at Gawler that they possible can, and after speaking with GRSA's CEO Matt Corby, participants can be reassured that their voices have been heard.
Mr Corby describes how the new kennel-house will be completely remodeled, including new air-conditioning that was so sorely needed to cope with the excessive heat the area consistency receives each summer. Existing drainage issues will also be resolved, areas for veterinary and administration work will be included and landscaping will be completed around the new structure.
While the kennel-house work is expected to be finalised and racing recommenced before June 30, it fills only one piece of a major puzzle that is in the pipeline for Gawler. With other clubs such as football and cricket sharing the land, every effort is being made to ensure that all interests are working together for a greater good, and as such, a proposal has been submitted to obtain a piece of $175 million that is being offered by the Federal Government. The showgrounds upgrade is one of 159 shortlisted projects from 476 originally submitted nationally, and the outcome of the proposal will be known on July 11.
Regulars to the Gawler track can rest assured that the existing patron area will be upgraded regardless of the July 11 result, with a new building for on-course patrons including stewards' area, replacing the existing tin-and-concrete structure that has been endured by locals for so long.
With “security of tenure” being the driving motivation behind the Gawler emphasis, it highlights the importance of the overall facility for not only large numbers of greyhound participants, but all residents in the Two Wells, Lewiston and Virginia region. Accessing the additional funds being offered will mean the plan will go ahead with all clubs in mind, making the goal of sustainability far more achievable.
The other major part of the GRSA strategic plan is a proposed one-turn track to be positioned south of Adelaide.
GRSA is weighing up a decision whether to reconstruct the current Strathalbyn site or build from scratch at one of two shortlisted locations at Murray Bridge. The good news from a timeframe perspective is that the project is “available anytime from a budgeting perspective” and the planning process is due to begin as soon as a location is selected.
“A one-turn track is something we desperately need in this state and we are hoping to push it through as soon as practicable.”
With an obvious lack of variation previously seen in S.A between Angle Park, Gawler and Strathalbyn courses, the addition of a U-turn track to the recently installed 388m and 400m trips should be welcome news to both local owners and trainers alike.
It comes as part of a long-term plan to reform the structure of prizemoney and grading. Consistency is something that appears to have been lacking in the past, with at one stage up to seven different stake levels being offered simultaneously, and GRSA are certainly looking to improve in that area going forward.
“It's about creating equitable positions for our second-tier meetings, and providing an alternative option for quality dogs.”
The plan involves having a much more predictable system of staking within a five-year timeframe. Thursday nights at Angle Park would remain the premier metropolitan-class meeting, with three options of second-tier meetings being available at identical prizemoney levels – Angle Park Monday, Gawler Tuesday as well as the proposed one-turn meeting.
Similarly, the issue of breeding in South Australia is not being ignored and is seen as being an area of significant improvement, but one that requires more time to address.
“(Breeding) is a critical issue that we face, but it can only be addressed piece-by-piece.”
“Incentives such as the Breeder's Rebate, we believe, has seen rise in the quality of sire that is being used, however that is just part of a really is a rebuilding phase.” Mr Corby adds.
The current GRSA board is taking an ‘actions speak louder than words' approach to the future of racing in the state, and are looking to differentiate from previous administrations that promised so much and yet delivered so little.
“We find that participants are presently supportive and yet anxious. We understand that you only get one crack at doing things like this properly. People have been very patient in the past and most importantly, they just want to see things happen.”
From what has been demonstrated recently, things are indeed happening and perhaps the ‘backwater' days of the past are long gone, at least from a racing perspective.