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Will Dubai be able to fill new racetrack? Something before the weekend.

Byline: HOWARD WRIGHT

DUBAI doesn't do things by halves. Indeed, the city that has grown out of all recognition over the last decade takes the norm and doubles it, at least. That's how it seems with the new racecourse project, revealed in a breathtaking presentation a week ago.

No-one has officially put a figure on the development, but it seems safe to suggest there will be little change out of pounds 500 million, twice the amount that Ascot has spent to enter the 21st century.

Individual areas of design will probably be re-shaped as the short time between starting work and opening in 2010 flies by, but there is definitely a look of the Ascot grandstand about the project model.

Sheikh Mohammed is understood to have made up his mind about an idea that had been bubbling in his brain for some time when he visited Royal Ascot last year. Of course, his box has a perfect view of the course.

One end of the grandstand will be reached by boat, as at Windsor, and the other end incorporates a trackside hotel, as is envisaged in the latest plan for Lingfield. But there the comparisons end, and are comfortably eclipsed.

Meydan City has been planned to trump all other international sites, and unlike Britain's ongoing effort to bring a new racecourse into existence, this one will definitely open on the appointed date.

However, as with all modern racecourses, the operators face the ongoing challenge of how to maximise its use, given that tourism and much else in the Emirates virtually closes down or disappears indoors under the extreme heat of June, July and August.

Dubai's racing season lasts only five months. Meetings in November and December are improving but remain low key, while the carnival does not easily pull in five-figure paying crowds, and World Cup night, boosted by corporate customers, probably wavers around 35,000 visitors at the most.

The new facility is being designed with seating for 40,000 and a capacity of 80,000. These are huge numbers in the present scheme of things.

Only one innovation would go anywhere near guaranteeing success on this scale. But who would dare mention the word 'betting' over the next couple of years?
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Apr 6, 2007
Words:373
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