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Sunday, 16 December, 2018

Chester unveils plans for £100m grandstand upgrades

The artist's impression shows the new events building to the left of the modernised Pavilion Grandstand
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Britain's oldest racecourse is set for a major facelift with Chester unveiling plans for a potential £100 million redevelopment to include two new grandstands and various other upgrades.

The project features a newly constructed three-level Events Building, which will act as a conference centre on non-racedays, adjacent to the Holiday Inn Express on the racecourse site with a modernised Pavilion Grandstand, containing hospitality boxes and restaurant and bar areas, replacing the Leverhulme Stand.

Details of the revamping of the track's main entrance in time for the May meeting were revealed last month, for which planning permission has now been approved.

Proposals for the wider redevelopment have been on display at a public exhibition at the course this week before the next stage of planning applications are submitted to Cheshire West and Chester Council in April.

An artist's impression of the new look approach to Chester racecourse released in January
Richard Thomas, chief executive of the track's owners the Chester Race Company (CRC), said: "It's quite a significant redevelopment and is something we've been working on to see where we can go with the racecourse in the next ten to 15 years.

"We would be looking at creating two new grandstands, increasing capacity, improving facilities and potentially having an additional boutique hotel on site.

"We're fortunate that we get big crowds, but big crowds come back only if they keep getting better facilities and experiences, and we want state-of-the-art facilities for our racegoers."

The Chester executive is also busy weighing up its media rights options, the outcome of which could potentially signal a switch to At The Races from Racing UK.

Chester is a founding member of Racecourse Media Group, the umbrella company under which RUK sits, but it has yet to agree an extension to a deal that comes up for renewal in 12 months' time.

In recent weeks, the media rights landscape has changed dramatically with RMG walking away from its international rights joint venture in GBI Racing before the bombshell development emerged that Ireland's racing coverage will switch to RUK from ATR at the start of 2019.

"There have been a few changes since we started looking at the rights and we are considering where we're at," said Thomas.

"It's an ever-changing picture and, like Ascot, we're looking at what is available and what is the best fit for Chester. We haven't made a decision yet but will in the fairly near future, I would think."

The CRC also owns Bangor and it is expected that the north Wales track would follow Chester's lead on a broadcasting decision. 

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It's something we've been working on to see where we can go with the racecourse in the next ten-15 years

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