Sandown Future Remains Up in the Air
The long-term future of Melbourne’s Sandown Raceway for motorsport remains up in the air, with mixed signals emanating from its owner, the Melbourne Racing Club (MRC).
At the start of August, The Race Torque took a deep dive into the green papers, planning permissions and mechanisms at play in the wrangle over the future of the historic suburban venue.
To that point, the MRC had sought from the City of Greater Dandenong planning permission to convert the multi-use venue into 7,500 dwellings for 16,000 residents, in a project with a possible value of $3.5bn.
The wide-ranging application was essentially for the maximum possible development that could take place on the sprawling 112.25-hectare site, with the ultimate outcome possibly including a mix of housing alongside the horse track.
Behind the scenes at the MRC, the club’s committee elections in late September were essentially seen as a vote in favour for keeping Sandown alive, with new committee members Shanyn Puddy, Nick Hasset and Alison Saville running a pro-Sandown campaign.
“I’m glad the election part of it is over. Now we can get stuck into it… we did lobby hard (for Sandown), obviously we get to meet with the rest of the committee tomorrow and go through the agendas and work out where we sit and what the feel is. They (members) have voted and we plan to be in and hopefully we can get the ball rolling.”Shanyn Puddy, new MRC Committee member to Racenet
Puddy had earlier noted in The Age that there remained the possibility to develop half of the site for housing, which would still allow horse racing to remain – clearly, this would be at the expense of motorsport.
“We’ve got over 100 hectares and you don’t need 100 hectares to run a racecourse.”Nick Hasset, new MRC Committee member to The Age
At the time of the AGM, it was also noted that the venue is undergoing a $6mil revitalisation project, with the first noticeable spruce up of the facility being the painting of the grandstand seating, plus refurbishments to various rooms and boxes, with the next step being improvements to turnstiles and entry gates.
It has also been reiterated that Sandown would be required in the foreseeable future to pick up the slack in metropolitan horse racing circles, covering ongoing redevelopments at Moonee Valley and the MRC-owned Caulfield, with the venue taking over races from Caulfield after Christmas.
Elsewhere: Rezoning to Continue
Today, Racing.com has noted that the MRC plans to continue with its current rezoning application, after thoroughbred industry speculation noted that the new board might walk away from its current path.
The story speculated that the club “risked losing a rich exemption from a new developer tax,” with Chairman Matt Cain emailing members following an internal strategy session regarding all elements of the club and its operations.
In part it read:
“In relation to Sandown, the Executive Committee agreed it is in the Club’s best interests to continue with the Planning Scheme Amendment for Sandown. The Approval of the Planning Scheme Amendment will allow the Executive Committee to consider all available options for Sandown racecourse and surrounding land in the future.
“From mid-next year, certain re-zonings in Victoria are subject to a Windfall Gains Tax of 50 per cent. Sandown is currently exempt from this tax if we continue on the current re-zoning path. This exemption is worth over $100m to the Club.
“We continue to work with Racing Victoria and the State Government in respect of this process and what is in the best interests of our members, the Club and the Victorian Thoroughbred Racing Industry.
“The Executive Committee remains committed to keeping our members informed and included through each step in the process and further member forums for you to hear from the Club directly and provide ongoing feedback will be held in the New Year.”
Ultimately, any decision on the future of Sandown will come down to the membership base at the MRC.
From a motorsport perspective, just this week, the specialist motorsport press has been abuzz with stories regarding the possibilities of Supercars extending its contract at the venue, which is slated to run out after next year’s return of the pre-Bathurst Sandown 500 enduro.