Newbury and Epsom show staying power in ‘tough going’

Big race track investment in events facilities in recent months looks more suited to the stayers rather than the sprinters, in terms of any payout or ROI.

Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall opened the new Epsom £28m grandstand 22 April. The Duchess Stand boasts a 1,123 square metre Oaks Hall, designed to host major conference and events business.

Epsom Racecourse MD Nick Blofeld tells CN: “The opening signifies the completion of the three-year redevelopment project which has seen the construction of a new 120 bedroom Holiday Express Hotel, entrance pavilion and grandstand which provides the South of England, if not the UK, with one of its most versatile and adaptable venues for meetings, conferences, exhibitions and events.”

Over at Newbury Racecourse, the past year has seen the establishment of an in-house catering operation, band nights and record attendances, yet a big jump in operating losses were posted.

“As 2008 progressed, the trading environment continued to be increasingly challenging,” says chairman Sir David Sieff, “particularly affecting the profitability of our conferencing and events business.”

The company will stick with its events strategy, however, says Joint MD Stephen Higgins, who promises strict cost controls on the journey to diversify and turn Newbury into a 365 days a year destination.

“Plans are currently in place to develop Newbury into a leisure facility with houses, amenities and a hotel, which will support our credentials as a conference and events destination,” says Higgins.” The industry as a whole has been hit by the economy, but we are still securing contracts for key events and looking forward to the future and in growing conference and events.”

A ‘Little to Large’ support package targeted at organisers of multiple delegate events has been launched and includes on-site hostel accommodation for crew, preferable hotel rates for delegates and organising staff, free Wi-Fi for up to 200 users and complimentary race day tickets.

Madness and Simply Red are two bands performing at Newbury’s Party in the Paddock in coming months. The course hosted over 450 events last year.

Paul Colston

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Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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