MRC push on with Sandown Racecourse re-zoning as future remains clouded
The future of Melbourne’s Sandown Racecourse is clouded, with the MRC seemingly pushing ahead to close the facility and have it transformed into a housing development.
While the Melbourne Racing Club is yet to publicly announce their plans for the venue, Greater Dandenong councillor Peter Brown told the Leader that councillors had been briefed two weeks ago by Melbourne Racing Club planners on a proposed sale of the racecourse. It follows the initial announcement last May.
It’s expected the plans would see the facility shut, and similar to the nearby Waverley Park, transformed into its own suburb, with some 7,000 dwellings and 16,000 residents.
However, the MRC insist the future of Sandown racecourse has not been decided despite working through a re-zoning process of the site, with club officials saying no decision will be made until the re-zoning process has been finalised.
Brown also called on the club not to sell up, but to retain the racecourse and spend money upgrading Sandown’s facilities to "attract people to come to it which they haven’t been doing”.
The Melbourne Racing Club, which also operates Caulfield Racecourse and Mornington Racecourse, announced $300 million plans back in May 2019 for a major redevelopment of its Caulfield facility, which would completely overhaul the aging venue into a state-of-the-art complex. It would also include new grandstands and a new 2200m inside track, seemingly able to accommodate additional racing meets should Sandown close and meets need to be relocated.
As part of the ‘Caulfield Racecourse Vision’, the club also started working with local Council and a number of government agencies in order to rezone the Sandown Racecourse site from a Special Use Zone to a Comprehensive Development Zone.
Despite speculation about the future of Sandown, the MRC stopped short of announcing any plans for it and instead said the rezone was being done to provide flexibility and to facilitate opportunities to build a world-class facility at Caulfield.
The MRC said on its website “The re-zoning process has no bearing on the racing activities at Sandown for the foreseeable future. All current activities at Sandown, including use of the car racing track, remain as is.”
Opened in 1962, Sandown Racecourse currently holds 35 metropolitan race meets per year, including the Zipping Classic and while attendance at most of these low-profile meets is low, the track is considered an industry workhorse with a fair and reliable racing surface.
The venue also features a racetrack and is the only remaining permanent inner-city track in Melbourne and one of only a few in the world. It hosts five major races per year including the annual Supercars event.
The sale would reap an estimated $400 million for the Melbourne Racing Club, which already has plentiful money reserves following the sale of land at Caulfield, with most of its carpark converted to apartment buildings in recent years.