Well its not got an engine but it does go round an oval........yes them dogs. No mention if dogs are likely to be included in any new site and some may not care too much. But they have coexisted alongside a number of tracks over the years and now they seem in some financial difficulties; which may impact on a couple of our remaining tracks (Hall Green appears to be the lastest victim for the dogs). Here is an overview of how things are.....
Greyhound stadiums – gone to the dogs?
26 February 2016 | By Jon Severs
When a greyhound retires from racing, the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB) will proudly tell you that every effort is made to find it a home.
If current trends continue, that home could well be situated on the track on which the dog used to race. Slowly but surely, dog tracks are being replaced by housing developments.
Back in the 1930s, there were more than 50 dog tracks in the UK, according to the GBGB. Now there are just 25. “Greyhound racing remains popular and profitable, especially at weekends,” says Jonathan Kay, greyhound racing correspondent for the Racing Post. “But it has had to face up to bricks and mortar enclosing the traditional sites from all sides, then swallowing them up.”
So with the controversies surrounding the closure of tracks in Catford and Walthamstow still fresh in the memory, are we witnessing the final circuit of a rather worn track for one of working-class Britain’s most iconic sports?
Given the accelerated rate of closures over recent years, it is tempting to regard it as a modern phenomenon, but if the sport is dying it has been ill for a long time. Developers have circled dog tracks throughout the sport’s history, says Kay.
“Greyhound racing in the UK started in 1926 at Belle Vue, Manchester, and was an instant success to the extent that there was a rapid proliferation of new venues up and down the country,” he explains. “Generally, these were built on cheap land in the less desirable urban areas, but over time towns and cities developed and the value shot up, so some were sold for redevelopment fairly quickly.”
However, the housing crisis has exacerbated the situation. The 2008 property crash bought a few tracks some time, but the fact that the leading promoter - the Greyhound Racing Association (GRA) - was bought in 2005 by Risk Capital Partners meant the writing was on the wall for venues when the housing market recovered and demand for new housing rose up the political agenda.
As competition for land intensifies, dog tracks that were once on the outskirts of towns have become increasingly enticing. “As stadiums are often located on the edges of towns that have extended in recent years, many have started to look like prime development sites,” says Amanda Blythe-Smith, associate director, leisure and trading, at Savills. “[Many are] brownfield sites and potentially surrounded by housing already.”
Roger Hobkinson, director for destination and development consulting at Colliers, agrees. “When these tracks were developed they were in relatively low-cost working-class locations, but now many are on prime sites,” he says.
Both Catford and Walthamstow tracks are currently being redeveloped for housing, but the projects also act as a warning that the process can be long. Catford Stadium closed in 2003, but planning permission for homes was not granted until 2009 and Barratt Homes only finished the first phase of housebuilding last year. The second phase will not be completed until later this year.
Walthamstow Stadium, meanwhile, closed in 2008 and housing association L&Q was still in minor planning negotiations in November as building work continued, with a projected completion date of summer 2016.
However, the sale and redevelopment of Wimbledon Stadium, one of GRA’s tracks, appears to be going through more quickly. In December, Merton council unanimously approved planning permission for AFC Wimbledon, Galliard Homes and GRA to build a 20,000-seat stadium and 602 homes where the track stands. The plans are now with the mayor’s office.
The Wimbledon sale has led to speculation that other tracks owned by Risk Capital Partners/GRA in Birmingham, Manchester and Oxford will also be sold. In terms of the latter, though, planning permission for 225 homes was refused by Oxford council in 2013. The site has sat unused since, but the council is sticking to its guns. GRA declined to comment on the Oxford or Wimbledon sites. Nor would it comment on the future of its other sites.
However, despite the rash of closures to make way for housing, reports of the imminent death of greyhound racing in the UK may be premature.
According to the GBGB, it is still the fifth-largest spectator sport in the UK, with two million people attending races each year. It cites the opening of a new track in Towcester in 2014 as evidence of growth and believes the six tracks owned by bookmakers - Ladbrokes at Crayford and Monmore; Coral at Hove and Romford; and William Hill at Sunderland and Newcastle - are unlikely to be redeveloped.
Hobkinson is also confident some tracks will survive. “This does not mean the end for dog tracks; it is a market rationalisation,” he says. “In London, you probably only need one great destination track that the greyhound community can focus on. Dublin has a good example in Shelbourne Park.”
He goes so far as to suggest that there is a “smart developer” out there who will see an opportunity to build a contemporary dog track as part of a large mixed-use development. “They will see the benefit of putting one in a big London regeneration area, somewhere with great access to the wider London market, such as Silvertown, the Greenwich Peninsula or the Olympic Park.”
Such a venue would appeal to dog-racing fans, but could also tap into the corporate market and tourists looking for a fun experience, he says.
So greyhound racing may be losing some of its most historic tracks to the housing crisis, but demand from the public is still strong. This dog isn’t ready to roll over just yet.
It's sad when the government extracts extra revenue from bookmakers (Ladbrookes just made a loss) and then says they should also be contributing to the dogs welfare on top. Is it any wonder that track owners then see a drop off in takings and then start to invest less into their facilities?
Ps. Another article that is a bit of an eye opener http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/features/6582608/Greyhound-crowds-hit-all-time-low.html
did anyone get to see "THAT" race? I bet even today that would generate a bit of free press