Kavanagh: Curragh needs to become a cool destination again
The Curragh has become disconnected from its potential customers in Dublin and needs to become a "cool" destination again.
That was the message from Horse Racing Ireland chief executive Brian Kavanagh as he addressed delegates of the 51st International Conference of Horseracing Authorities in Paris on Monday.
Kavanagh was speaking after giving a presentation on the redevelopment of the Curragh, which has been criticised for the decision to continue racing while work was ongoing.
He said: "I think the Curragh has got disconnected from its Dublin customer base. Our research would show that the vast majority of race meetings around Ireland are supported by their local hinterland mainly.
"So I think the Curragh has two challenges, to reconnect with its Kildare heartland and for it to become cool for people in Dublin to go racing at the Curragh again.
"That was the case, particularly when Budweiser were sponsoring the Irish Derby, it was a big social event. That has been lost somewhat as you can see yourself. When the facilities are not good, it's very difficult to look cool in that sort of environment. So I think that is a big challenge."
Kavanagh said the development was on time and on budget.
"The budget is €72 million," he said. "I'll be up in front of the Irish parliament if we don't deliver it on that budget.
Kavanagh acknowledged that the decision to continue racing at the Curragh was "somewhat controversial perhaps" and that working with temporary facilities "caused some difficulties at certain times".
"It reflected the importance of the Curragh to the Irish Flat racing programme," Kavanagh said.
"In the context of my country, the racing and breeding industry is an important industry and in that context the Curragh is an important part of that industry.
"Any of you who have been there will recognise that its facilities have not matched the quality of the track or the quality of the racing or indeed the quality of its competitor racecourses.
"I'm glad to say that after a number of years of stalled redevelopment we're now on track to open a brand shining new Curragh in the spring of 2019."
Curragh chief executive Derek McGrath added: "Next year will be a much more positive one for us, pointing to the future with a real opportunity and then beginning to engage as to what we want to do from 2019."
The subject of cool also came up in the presentation on the redevelopment of Longchamp, which is due to reopen in April.
France Galop marketing director Fabrice Favetto Bon said research had shown 80 per cent of French people aged over 15 "have no opinion concerning racing".
He added: "This is why it's important to be cool, to be seen as a cool sport."
France-Galop plan to use their "flagship, the new Longchamp," to help achieve that aim, he added.