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In the dark

Sherrylyn A. Toppin

In the dark

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The Barbados Turf Club (BTC) has not given up hope of one day staging racing under the lights at the Garrison Savannah.
But the designation of the Garrison Historic Area as part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site is making that dream harder to realize.
In an interview with MIDWEEK SPORT yesterday, BTC chief executive officer Rosette Peirce said the first application to the Town Planning Department was made back in 2005, referencing an impact study which was done in 1994.
The last application was made in 2010. The applications have been met with the same response.
“We’ve been turned down, but we are appealing that decision,” Peirce said.
“The area became a World Heritage site and there were concerns how the modernization of the area would affect it; but at the end of the day, it is an industry that employs a large number of people directly and indirectly and we need to keep it going.”
With that in mind, Peirce said they experimented with staging races on Fridays.
Racing was held on July 5 and will be done again on August 30.
“We have been trying to get lights to facilitate night racing for some time,” she noted.
“Obviously, with so many activities on Saturdays, we have seen a drop in attendance. Night racing would give us an opportunity to schedule racing on other days.
“We had a lovely crowd, a great day (on July 5). It just proves the point if we were given the opportunity to have alternative days.”
However, proving the point came at a price.
Peirce said it cost $58 000 to stage a race day, and the BTC had to reduce the programme to six races so they could finish before nightfall.
“We need the lights,” she said. “It was a loss to us. The expense to carry out a race day is the same as five races, six races or ten races. Then you lose the betting revenue.”
The disappointment from that venture has been appeased somewhat with the approval to set up a gaming room on the site of the old Field Stand.
“When the Tropical Storm (Tomas) destroyed the Field Stand, we decided to try to build a stand that also facilitated a gaming room. You would be able to bet on other events, not just horse racing, and put in a restaurant,” Peirce said.
“As soon as we get the financial backing we will start with that.”
Peirce declined to give the cost of that project.
Meanwhile, tomorrow is Derby Day. Traditionally, it is held the first Saturday after Kadooment Day, but Peirce said the BTC made the change to try and capture some of the visitors who are on the island.