Utilising the potential of racecourses
Gary Johnson, director of sport and leisure at LK2, discusses how maximising the land left unused at leisure facilities such as racecourses, could be the key to new income streams for those already in the sector.
Urban spaces for sport and leisure are becoming increasingly difficult to secure, local authorities and private investors will soon need to take a new and innovative approach to utilise existing plots across the UK. However, it’s not just the lack of space that’s proving challenging for local authorities and private investors, as in recent years there has been a significant shift in the audience of people using leisure facilities. The move from sport being a pursuit reserved exclusively for competitors and established teams to becoming a community-based leisure activity where families, couples and professionals can pursue a hobby or improve their fitness, provides another test for developers.
With local communities crying out for new facilities to support these changes, there is a huge opportunity for both racecourses and wider business owners, to effectively solve both problems. By capitalising on unused land, owners of sports and leisure businesses, local authorities and investors, can source much-needed sites while in turn creating a financially sustainable business plan. Large sites such as racecourses make up a significant amount of open space across the UK and are often overlooked for development. However, they are often only utilised during racing season which last for 17-25 days of the year making racecourses the perfect site for regeneration.
This idea is underpinned by a fresh take on the mix of facilities that could be offered. For example the creation of popular leisure facilities such as: urban gyms, climbing walls, trampoline venues, skate parks, and adventure playgrounds. These kinds of venues are ideal for families and could easily become a wider part of the local community, which in turn can draw in significant grant funding, making them a great investment opportunity.
The main argument for repurposing racecourses is that not only will it provide a rental income stream to owners but it could also lead to the generation of asset value. Through regeneration, racecourse owners will be handed a long-term business plan which attracts investment that can be ploughed back into the industry.
However, it’s important to note that the concept of using racecourses for redevelopment is not intended to make horse racing a secondary activity within these facilities. In contrast, the addition of a wider variety of capabilities and attractions has the potential to draw an entirely different demographic. By increasing footfall to sites from these new markets, you would see an increase in the number of attendees on race days – rejuvenating a past-time, which until now, may be regarded as favoured by an older generation.
There is certainly growing interest for these types of redevelopments, especially in out-of-town locations such as racecourses and retail parks. We are certain more and more developers and business owners will be considering how to maximise opportunities of this nature, especially at a time when communities are in need of accessible and reliable sport and leisure facilities.