Chairman defends decision to race with crowd cap
Curragh chairman Padraig McManus on Wednesday underlined that the decision to continue racing at the track throughout the two-year €65 million redevelopment programme, with a truncated season and crowd cap of just 6,000, was taken after much debate.
Staging the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby and the Curragh's leg of Irish Champions Weekend amid redevelopment work has come in for criticism, notably from senior trainers Jim Bolger and Ger Lyons, both of whom advocate moving those two fixtures to other venues, mainly because of the attendance limit.
The 6,000 cap was part of the development plan lodged with Kildare County Council a year ago and approved in August – though the limit has only come to light this week.
McManus said: "We discussed the situation with many stakeholders in racing and there were those in favour and others against. It wasn't an easy decision to make, but in the end we decided to take the pain during the two years and run the Derby and the Champions Weekend meeting here. It was a majority decision.
"We decided that having truncated seasons this year and next year, using temporary facilities, was the best way to go."
The first phase of redevelopment began recently and the temporary facilities that will be used this year will include a covered grandstand to cater for 1,500 racegoers.
The possibility of the in-field at the racecourse being used to increase the attendance capacity has been ruled out as it is not stipulated in the strict planning provisions, apart from on Irish Derby day when the sponsors are permitted to erect a hospitality marquee.
The building site areas of the racecourse will be fenced off from the spaces which will be accessible to racegoers.
When the redevelopment work is completed in time for the 2019 season, the Curragh will have a maximum capacity of 30,000. Last year's Irish Derby attracted a crowd of around 18,000.
The Curragh's 2017 season begins on May 13 and finishes on September 10.