Dundalk all-weather track gets go-ahead.
IRELAND'S first all-weather racing facility is expected to open for business in the spring of 2007, after Horse Racing Ireland yesterday announced it had approved maximum grant aid of 10.276 million towards the cost of a new development at the site of Dundalk race-course, writes Tony O'Hehir. HRI's decision, taken at a board meeting on Monday, was announced jointly by Minister for Sport, Arts and Tourism John O'Donoghue and HRI chairman Denis Brosnan, after representatives of Dundalk had met HRI executives to go over the finer points.
The total cost of the project, on the site where Dundalk greyhound racing stadium has been in operation since November 2003, will amount to 19.6m.
Dundalk will provide 9.3m funding, and this will include 2m grant aid from Bord na gCon to assist the extension of the existing grandstand for the benefit of greyhound and horseracing crowds.
In addition to being Ireland's first all-weather track, the Dundalk venture will be the first floodlit track in Ireland and the first facility combining horseracing and greyhound racing.
HRI chief executive Brian Kavanagh envisages 25 meetings will be staged in the first year of operation. He said: "Everything will be sorted out by the fixtures committee next year when it puts the 2007 fixture list together, but we are probably looking at two blocks of ten meetings - one in the spring and one in the autumn - either on Friday or Saturday nights.
"Dundalk are also keen to hold on to some of their traditional dates, so they will probably have another five night meetings through the year."
Kavanagh added: "We're looking at a minimum of 175 extra races being added to the year's programme of Flat races when Dundalk is up and running."
Leo McCauley, chairman of Dundalk, said: "We are delighted with HRI's decision to support our ambitious plans."