REMEMBER the time – it was late 2011 to be exact – when the Board of then Racing Queensland chairman Bob Bentley planned to convert Deagon into a world class state-of-the-art harness and greyhound complex.

All hell broke loose when Bentley – with the support of the then Labor Government – announced that a development application was about to be made to the Brisbane City Council to proceed with the $30 million project.

It was seen as the answer to the woes confronting the minor codes with uncertainty over the future of Albion Park which was subsequently the subject of a court action taken by harness King Kevin Seymour and the APHRC against RQ and Bentley claiming that Board had reneged on a promise NOT TO SELL ALBION PARK.

At the time it all got a bit messy with claims and counter claims that the old Creek was not worth the cost of redeveloping with insufficient patronage at the trots in particular to justify a big grandstand and restaurant complex. There were also murmurs about development plans for the area that some in the gallops industry were claiming involved multi-millionaire Seymour or one of his many companies. To this day the situation seems to remain unresolved with the minor codes deserving of a major headquarters despite the crowds that they attract.

Bentley believed almost a decade ago now that Albion Park should be closed down and sold paving the way for the development of a state-of-the-art harness and greyhound complex at Deagon but that would have meant relocating the thoroughbred trainers and apprentice jockey training centre based there.

Those trainers with major real estate interests at Deagon soon joined forces with the LNP, an election was looming and there was a change of Government resulting in the Bentley plan for the future ending up pie-in-the-sky.

Bentley maintained at the time that: “Deagon will answer the industry’s call for a metropolitan standard facility for greyhound and harness codes by delivering modern racing and training facilities for both codes.

“The majority of harness racing people want a new 1400 metre track and some people conveniently forget that the greyhounds, who had a 50 per cent stake in Albion Park, also want out of Albion Park if a better alternative is available.

“Deagon does not have the space to accommodate the (gallops) trainers because a new harness and greyhound facility as well as the Deagon Deviation does not leave room for thoroughbred training,” Bentley explained back then.

“RQL has negotiated a deal with the Brisbane Racing Club for an extra 70 on-course stables, 30 tie-up stalls and two horse walkers for the current Deagon trainers at Eagle Farm.

“RQL will provide the ability for trainers with four or more horses historically trained at Deagon to take advantage of on-course stabling at Eagle Farm (capped at 70 horses) and the Sunshine Coast (capped at 100 horses).”

“I understand that some trainers are upset they have to move and I feel for them but RQL won’t shy away from tough decisions to help the entire industry.”

Fast forward to the current day and Michelle Smith, writing for QUEST NEWSPAPERS, has broken the news that RQ is planning a major redevelopment at Deagon Racecourse which will include opportunities for sport, retail, dining, entertainment and accommodation.

And guess what? All those trainers who were bleating the most when they looked like being moved are now over the moon. And why wouldn’t they be? Their big property investments are safe and ensured of a major boost in value once the new plan – surprise, surprise, backed by a Labor Government – comes to fruition. Who said they don’t learn by their mistakes of the past?

QUEST reports that the site’s primary use will remain an equine precinct with the establishment of a multipurpose State Training Centre with stabling for more than 200 horses, quadruple its current capacity.

Other possibilities are an equine hospital and swimming pool, short-stay accommodation and an education centre for apprentice jockeys, stable hands and associated industry services.

Racing Queensland (RQ), in conjunction with Brisbane Racing Club (the current track tenant at Deagon), will also seek community input on secondary uses for the site including sports facilities, farmers markets, cafes, shopping and entertainment, and residential or aged care living.

Racing Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said the master planning process would start later this year. “This is about enhancing Deagon’s status as a thoroughbred training precinct for the 21st Century while creating an inclusive community space for the enjoyment of local residents,” Mr Hinchliffe said

“The establishment of a multipurpose State Training Centre for thoroughbreds would be a game changer for Deagon. It will bring important economic benefits and is expected to create 60 new racing jobs on site, along with about 900 more during the construction phase.

“Additionally, the increased presence of trainers, jockeys, stable hands and farriers is expected to inject millions into the local economy.”

Deagon stabling is currently limited to 52 horses. Locally, there are 12 on-course trainers and 30 off-course trainers who use the facility.

BRC chairman Neville Bell told QUEST his club welcomed the opportunity to work with RQ on the critical industry project. “Deagon is set to become a training centre that will consistently produce outstanding racehorses … and the BRC is excited to partner with Racing Queensland in this next phase.”

Unlike the Bentley plan of almost a decade ago, the cost of which was there for everyone to see, there is no mention of what the new plan for Deagon will cost or who will pay for it although the story suggests it is a joint venture between the BRC and RQ (no doubt with some Government input).

The questions that need to be answered is where does it stand in the list of priorities with other major infrastructure developments that clubs like the Gold Coast and Ipswich have waited so patiently for.

No doubt when Racing Minister Stirling Hinchliffe addresses Parliament on how Labor is growing the industry in Queensland he will transparently detail the costing and urgency of the project for all to see.


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