Maintain Ascot, develop Lark Hill as a multi-use racing and training track and retain Gloucester Park as the premium city venue for harness racing are proposals recommended by independent consultants, GHD, in a high level options paper provided today to the Metropolitan Equine Asset Review Taskforce (MEART).

MEART was established by Racing and Wagering Western Australia (RWWA) to undertake a review of metropolitan thoroughbred and harness racing and training assets in order to address current and future asset utilisation from an industry and public interest perspective.

MEART Chairman, Bob Pearson said the Independent report was critical to understanding the industry’s long-term needs and viable future vision amidst a highly competitive wagering, leisure and sporting entertainment market.

“Optimal utilisation of our metropolitan and inner provincial racing assets is critical to ensuring the future sustainability of our racing and training operations within the State of Western Australia”, he said.

GHD completed its findings whilst balancing the longer term needs of the thoroughbred and harness codes against population change, revenue volatility and potential changes in wagering regulation and increased competition.

The racing industry in Western Australia is currently experiencing similar trends to those being experienced nationally and internationally: declining attendance which contributes to a decline in on-course wagering, a revenue stream for respective race clubs.

GHD identified the majority of Perth’s metropolitan population growth to have been in the north and south corridors with the Greater Peel region predicted to grow from a current half a million residents to 1.26 million by 2050.

GHD Principal Project Manager Peter Tilley said the ideal asset mix for the equine racing industry relies on premium multi-use facilities being located in or near high growth population centres within the equine industry hub.

‘There are two locations that meet this criterion, being Perth city and the growing population centres of Mandurah and Rockingham,’ Tilley said.

‘Provincial racing is an integral part of the racing and harness qualifying system and should be available to and located near the hub of the equine industry. This arrangement of premium, provincial and training facilities should ideally be distributed around the greater Peel region.’

Situated in this major footprint is Lark Hill, an existing training complex that has the potential to develop as the southern metropolitan home of thoroughbred racing and can be expanded to an events facility complete with on-course stabling.  It is in close proximity to industry participants, accessible to transport and the Mandurah rail line, holds an existing ground water extraction licence and will reduce the cost of entry into the industry for future participants.

GHD has proposed that Ascot, with is authentic racing ambience and extensive racing history, should continue to remain the premier inner metropolitan racing venue in Western Australia with renovated and upgraded new facilities including lighting to capture a wider wagering return from the Asian market.  GHD has identified that the multi-purpose use of Ascot for training, racing and stabling is a more efficient use of resources in the long term than Belmont Park which is a racing venue only.

Although GHD has flagged that Belmont Park is potentially not needed in the very long term ideal asset mix, Belmont Park is under the absolute ownership of Perth Racing which has discretion over its investment and has committed to a redevelopment.

The report recommends that Gloucester Park be retained as the premium city venue for harness racing with its location ideally suited to the increased city activity which will gravitate eastwards towards the new Riverside development and Perth Stadium, providing greater awareness and exposure.

While the report focused on metropolitan assets, it considered impacts of inner provincial tracks including Northam and Pinjarra. GHD noted that the Northam thoroughbred track may not be needed in the ideal asset mix long-term. The prospect of lighting being installed at the Pinjarra harness track was also indicated as an option to increase the potential utilisation for Pinjarra.

A Public Forum will take place on Friday 18th September to discuss the MEART recommendations in detail with industry stakeholders. The RWWA Board will consider the report’s findings following further industry consultation.

The full report can be found here

The Metropolitan Equine Asset Review Taskforce Report (MEART) was discussed with Peter Tilley (GHD – Principal Project Manager) and Bob Pearson (Chair of MEART and RWWA Board Member) on TABradio: