Funding squeeze puts pressure on Stony Creek

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Funding squeeze puts pressure on Stony Creek

STONY Creek Racing Club has been dealt a double blow.

Funding cuts threaten the future of the club’s training facility and the club has lost a race meeting.

The club will host just four race meetings from the end of next season.

The Victorian Country Racecourse and Training Facilities Plan released last week will see training centre funding axed for Stony Creek and Bairnsdale, while Stony Creek and Latrobe Valley (Traralgon) will each lose a race meeting from 2016-17.

Stony Creek Racing Club president Paul O’Sullivan said the announcement, which the club could foresee was coming, was still “very disappointing and going to put a lot of pressure on the club”.

Mr O’Sullivan said although things looked grim for the training facility, he stopped short of conceding it would close.

He has sought an urgent meeting this week with the head of Country Racing Victoria, and will meet with race club officials and trainers next week, seeking “a way forward.”

Terry Grace, the CEO of the Stony Creek Racing Club, said the $52,000 the club currently receives annually to provide trainers with well maintained stalls, a grass track, a sand track and two ladies who supervise training would cease in 2016-17.

“Without that money it will be difficult for us to provide training facilities,” Mr Grace said.

He said the club used to receive in excess of $90,000 for a permanent training facility, but that funding was cut back to $57,000, reducing training to three days per week.

That had now evaporated to nothing.

Mr Grace said the club was also frustrated by the reduction from five to four race meetings a year.

The news came as the club prepares for the Stony Creek Cup on Sunday, March 8 and the hugely successful Ladies Day meeting, when “betting was up 50 per cent on the previous year’s meeting and all the feedback was fantastic,” Mr Grace said.

“Being faced with a 20 per cent reduction in what we do is not good news,” the CEO said.

“Our fixed costs will remain the same but our ability to meet them is reduced by 20 per cent.”

Added to that is the move of one meeting from a Saturday to a Tuesday in February. Mid-week races are generally poorly attended.

Mr Grace said with four meetings, there was not much room to move.

“If just one of our main meetings is ‘washed out’ we could face quite a severe loss for the season. There’s no leeway; if we have just one bad meeting it would take the gloss off the whole season,” he said.

Meanwhile the new Pakenham facility soon to open at Tynong will have 39 race meetings, Cranbourne 23, Sale 18 and Moe 14.

The Nationals Eastern Victoria Region MLC, Danny O’Brien, last week called on the Minister for Racing Martin Pakula to intervene to stop the downgrading of Gippsland racing clubs, including Stony Creek, Traralgon and Bairnsdale.

“I am very concerned this plan sees the continued contraction of support away from small country racing venues into larger regional centres and Melbourne,” he said.

“It is just a further example of country facilities and events being eroded incrementally, and I think it needs to stop.

“I am most concerned about the removal of training funding and one meeting for Stony Creek, as it is the only professional club in South Gippsland.

“The plan states that it wants a good ‘geographical spread’ of facilities and meetings but downgrading Stony Creek doesn’t help achieve that aim.”

Mr O’Brien said the Stony Creek Cup on the Labour Day long weekend was one of the sporting and social events of the year for South Gippsland.

Mr O’Brien said the plan itself gave a good explanation of why these clubs should be maintained.

It states: “It is considered a reduction in small racetracks across the state would impact racing’s marketability and provide limited economic benefit to the industry, given the small amount of funding required to operate these venues,” and “…country racing is an integral part of the sporting life and cultural traditions of people in regional Victoria…clubs foster social cohesion through their events and facilities and provide benefits to a broad range of individuals and community organisations.”

Mr O’Brien said, “I agree, and that’s why these facilities and race meetings should be maintained.

“Martin Pakula can use his influence as minister to push for a review of this plan.

“The Nationals in government managed to actually increase the number of country race meetings and this should be maintained.

“Stony Creek Racing Club’s position as a training venue brings many benefits to the region including jobs. If it is not funded and has to be shut down, trainers will be forced to travel to Moe, Cranbourne, Pakenham or Sale, taking money out of South Gippsland.

“We are talking about relatively small amounts of money in an industry that generates millions every month.”

Shadow Minister for Racing Tim Bull MP said the minister must stand up for country race clubs and jobs.

“Many years ago Stony Creek hosted seven meetings per season, but now it will have just four with its training facilities funding cut,” he said.

Christian Stefani, manager of customer relations at South Gippsland Shire Council, said the Stony Creek races are a stimulus to the local economy.

“It’s always disappointing to see a reduction in the number of meets being held each year. The races are greatly enjoyed by both locals and visitors alike,” he said.

The equestrian community has long been calling for an indoor equestrian centre to be built at Stony Creek Racecourse.

Ned Dennis, council’s manager for community strengthening, said the funding cuts would not necessarily mean the

indoor centre would be less viable.

 

 

Off the rails: Stony Creek Racing Club president Paul O’Sullivan, left, and CEO Terry Grace said the club has been dealt a double blow.

Off the rails: Stony Creek Racing Club president Paul O’Sullivan, left, and CEO Terry Grace said the club has been dealt a double blow.

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Posted by on Feb 17 2015. Filed under Featured, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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