Frustration as fears Eagle Farm’s re-opening could be pushed back as late as October
RACING Queensland has denied the state election is another speed bump for the Eagle Farm redevelopment as fears grow racing may not resume at headquarters until as late as October.
Work on the course proper is proceeding to the updated schedule of an August finish, but despite an announcement being made on Stradbroke day last year, contractors are yet to be given the go ahead to commence work on the $12 million tunnels and flood mitigation works at Eagle Farm.
Brisbane Racing Club chairman Neville Bell, already frustrated by the original April completion date being pushed back, said the contractors were “sitting on their hands” waiting for the green light.
“The BRC is extremely disappointed at the delays in the government’s sign-off on the second stage of the redevelopment of Eagle Farm course proper,” Bell said.
“Initially the plans were to resume racing at Eagle Farm in April 2015. We could now be looking at September or October.”
“Eagle Farm racing generates the majority of wagering turnover in Queensland.
“Every week this project is delayed it is costing hundreds of thousands of dollars in turnover and therefore loss of income to the industry and government.”
Racing Minister Steve Dickson refused to be drawn on the Eagle Farm redevelopment when questioned at Caloundra on Saturday, but Racing Queensland chairman Kevin Dixon expects work to begin on the tunnel phase within the next fortnight.
He believes the scheduling is still on target to have racing resume in mid-August, but said RQ won’t hesitate to push that date back if necessary.
“I would rather wait another month or two and deal with complaints about no racing at Eagle Farm, than resume too early and have problems with the new track from the outset,” he said.
“We will make absolutely certain the grass is well-established before we start racing there again.”
Dixon denied this was an admission RQ erred with the quick resumption and subsequent heavy workload at Toowoomba last year, despite the track being criticised in recent months.
He did concede “we are learning all the time”.
“The same thing happened at courses like Moonee Valley, Flemington and Randwick when they were redone. We would be pretty stupid not to have learned a lesson by watching that,” he said.
After the announcement in June last year, Eagle Farm had a heavy race schedule through to August, in anticipation of work beginning.
But the track stood dormant for three months as the project was delayed.
As a result, other tracks in southeast Queensland have come under pressure and that will only increase as the winter carnival draws nearer.
Bell said his club had “moved on” from its frustration over RQ’s decision to move the Tattersall’s Tiara (Gold Coast) and Queensland Cup (Eagle Farm) to other venues.