Ipswich Turf Club general manager Brett Kitching overlooks the upgrade work.
As Ipswich Turf Club general manager Brett Kitching looks out from the edge of the grandstand on the main straight at Ipswich Turf Club he can see the future taking shape.
Below, work is in full swing to construct a new dual purpose members lounge and events centre – the centrepiece of a $13m upgrade, the biggest investment at the club in more than two decades.
Just getting to this point has been a major undertaking but the journey is not done yet.
Mr Kitching said while the club initially hoped the upgrade, overseen by Racing Queensland, would be completed in time for this year’s Ipswich Cup in June, delays meant that was no longer the case.
“At the moment it looks like the only part of the upgrade that will be ready for this year’s Ipswich Cup is a new forecourt inside the entrance way,” he said.
“We’ve just celebrated Christmas and we are hoping that by next Christmas we will be able to say we have a major new facility Ipswich can be proud of.”
If that timeframe is met it would be a fitting end to what is a milestone year for racing in the city, with 2019 marking 160 years since the state’s first official race meet was held in Ipswich.
Once the upgrade is complete, Ipswich Turf Club will have a new members lounge overlooking the track which will double as an events centre, fit for purpose stewards and jockeys rooms and new race day stalls.
The club also plans to eventually update the existing Eyeliner lounge, which has not undergone any major changes since the 1980s.
“All things going to plan, this year will be the last Ipswich Cup where we use the Eyeliner lounge in its existing configuration, so there is a bit of nostalgia there,” Mr Kitching said.
“While there have been delays, the excitement is still growing and there is a lot of anticipation among supporters of the club for the upgrades.”
While work on the members lounge and events centre has progressed slower than hoped, major inroads have been made on the racing surface itself.
Work on the new members lounge and events centre is under way.
The race course proper is looking good.
With the help of Racing Queensland, which has supplied equipment and support, Ipswich Turf Club has transformed its track from a hard surface to one more conducive to first-class racing.
“The course proper is racing extremely well and is in the best condition it has been for about five years,” Mr Kitching said.
“Five years ago some work was done that changed the nature of the track and it made it quite hard and inconsistent.”
Since 2017, the club has been working hard to add more cushion into the surface and improve root depth and drainage.
“It is tremendously exciting to think what we will have here once the upgrade is complete; a quality racing surface with modern facilities,” Mr Kitching said.
In the meantime, the Ipswich Turf Club is already well into planning for this year’s Ipswich Cup.
The construction on site means there will be some changes to the layout of off-track activities but Mr Kitching said there was “not a single element that we have looked at and said ‘we can’t have that anymore’.”
The Ipswich Cup is the region’s biggest race day, accounting for half of the club’s annual revenue and injecting about $5 million into the local economy.
This year’s Ipswich Cup is on June 15.
An artist’s impression showing what the completed upgrade will look like.