What the 2015 redevelopment did for Cheltenham racecourse
When the Cheltenham Festival begins each year, hundreds of thousands of people flock to the town of Cheltenham and, in particular, the racecourse, to catch a glimpse of what could be the next big name in horse racing. Each year jockeys and trainers battle to become the best in the business and lift the Gold Cup, seen by many as the grand prize of the festival.
As the number of visitors to the festival increased year on year, the outdated facilities and layout were struggling to cope with the sheer number of people coming through the gates. With this in mind, the decision was taken to redevelop the racecourse and from 2013-2015 Kier developers were contracted to modernise the course so that it could handle the influx of people.
The construction involved building a new grandstand on request of the Jockey Club, who were financing the ambitious redevelopment. The new grandstand was to replace the current “A&R” block, which was over 90 years old at the time the project was commissioned. The project comprised of 14 sectional completions and 18 separate projects, all the while ensuring that events such as the Cheltenham Festival were unaffected during the construction.
It took 19 months to construct the five-and-a-half storey grandstand and it was unveiled in November 2015 by Her Royal Highness Princess Anne. The capacity of the new grandstand was increased on the previous one to 6,500 and a royal box and new hospitality boxes were included in the build. On the top floor there is a premium superclub.
The redevelopment of the racecourse was not limited to the building of the grandstand as in the plans there was also a new crescent walkway which was designed to help spectators’ movement while also allowing for the spectators to have a good view of the parade ring.
The total cost of the redevelopment was £45 million, £25 million of which was raised by the Jockey Club. They achieved this total through the Jockey Club Racecourse Bond, which made history by becoming the first retail bond in British sport. The remaining £20 million to fund the project came from multiple sources including HSBC, AIB and RBS as well as a Horserace Betting Levy Board capital fund loan. The Jockey Club’s cash flow and commercial deals made up the rest of the funding.
People who attend the Cheltenham Festival 2019 will have the opportunity to view the grandstand as well as appreciate the facilities that were built alongside it.
The Jockey Club will hope that this latest redevelopment of the facilities at Cheltenham will last for many decades to come as they have already invested £80 million in the facilities at the racecourse. As one of the most popular events in the racing calendar, the Cheltenham Festival is well worth the upgrade and with improved bar and toilet facilities as well as more public viewing areas, Cheltenham will appeal to more people and in turn, the racecourse will be able to handle further increases in spectators to one of the biggest festivals of the year.