A multimillion-dollar revamp is about to change the face of WA racing amid continuing uncertainty over plans to redevelop Belmont Park.
Racing and Wagering WA has earmarked $28 million from its cash reserves to turn Bunbury racetrack into a major centre for the growing South West and Peel regions, while upgrading Pinjarra’s course and widening the Ascot home turn and straight.
RWWA chief executive Richard Burt said the changes would guarantee the future of WA racing for at least the next 20 years. Mr Burt said WA racing needed contingency plans for when the long-awaited Belmont redevelopment went ahead, or if either of Perth Racing’s two tracks became unavailable.
The recommendations come after a report from Perth-based GHD Advisory, commissioned in August.
“We’ve been waiting on what’s going on with Belmont and we’ve been wanting to access Royalties For Regions funding for Bunbury,” Mr Burt said. “We haven’t been able to control Belmont or access funds independent of RWWA for Bunbury.
“But we’re not going to sit back any more. We’re de-risking the model … it makes sense and it’s long overdue.”
The $17 million Bunbury project includes rebuilding the main track and adding an engineered drainage system to provide a year-round racing surface. A training and trial track will also be built as well as a race day and training stalls complex.
Land may need to be acquired from Alcoa Australia so a second home turn can be built at Pinjarra and a turf renovation schedule will help prepare the track to host more meetings during the planned Bunbury closure from March 2020.
RWWA is hoping to start the $5 million works at Pinjarra early in the new year.
Changes at Ascot, including improved drainage, would require land acquisition from the City of Belmont and help the track host as many race meetings as possible.
Mr Burt said the plans would address the unfair advantage city-based trainers had.
“You’ve got these populous areas of Mandurah, Rockingham and further south that are just going to grow exponentially over time and we want to make sure we have the right facilities where the horses are going to be based,” he said.
Perth Racing managing director John Yovich said he expected Belmont works under the agreement with Golden River Development to start in February, but the wider redevelopment would not be completed for “decades”.
He would present a business plan for a more modest Belmont grandstand redevelopment.