The long-awaited new facilities at Clonmel Greyhound Stadium finally opened to the public on Sunday night after the successful completion of a €1.5 million redevelopment.
Finished on-schedule and on-budget, the upgrade comprises a new stand along with a new restaurant and bar, all of which attracted a positive reaction from punters on the first night of operation, ahead of this year’s national coursing meeting which will see racing at the track on four successive nights from Friday.
The old facilities, including a stand dating back to 1932 which was demolished as part of the renovation, served racing fans well for many years but a new stand has long been the holy grail of the local greyhound sector and the dream held for decades by enthusiasts has now come true.
The new stand can hold up to 500 people in its interior, including 112 in the restaurant where food is supplied by the track’s own chef and staff, and there’s standing room for 350 to watch the action from the stand’s main concourse.
According to chairman of the stadium’s board of directors, Donal O’Connor, the all-new track “went down a bomb” on Sunday night. A bumper crowd of about 500 people turned up for the night’s racing while 35 diners chose to be the first to sample the restaurant. “The comments were that it was top-class,” Mr O’Connor said of the reaction. “We’d only a small menu but the quality of the food is excellent. The comments about the viewing were also very positive.”
He said the new facilities in Clonmel were more than overdue to serve the loyal and sizable band of owners, trainers and general supporters of greyhound racing in the region. “We’re tired of telling people, ‘next year, next year, next year’. The initial plan was to put up a €5 million facility, which was in the Celtic Tiger days.”
It’s likely they dodged a bullet when that €5 million plan didn’t go ahead, as making it pay in the long-term would have been problematic in light of the recession and the decline in spending money across the country.
The €1.5 million for the revamped project was met through €500,000 from the Davis Road Greyhound Stadium Company and a €1 million grant from the greyhound board.
“The facility we have now is perfect for the present climate and can be extended down the road, if the demand is there,” Mr O’Connor said.
The main contractor for the construction was Mythen Brothers of New Ross in Co Wexford and management were “very fortunate” to have secured that firm as they were “true to their word” and had the development ready for handover over a week ahead of schedule.
Design was by Seamus McCloskey, architect to the Irish Greyhound Board, while most of the sub-contractors were sourced locally, as was the majority of the building materials.
“We’re quite pleased with the results and I’d say we got good value for money,” the chairman said.
Now, the stadium is available for potentially money-spinning events such as hen and stag nights, parties, Christmas outings, prize nights and more, and hopes are high that such business which, until now, migrated to the likes of Waterford or Kilkenny, will stay in Clonmel.
Attention now turns to the busy coursing weekend with racing taking place at 7.30pm on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday nights - no racing will be held on either of the next two Thursdays - and the restaurant open from about 5.30pm each night