Punchestown Racecourse will begin a €6.2 million racecourse upgrade in May 2016. The project has been approved for capital development grant aid of €2.5 million by the Board of Horse Racing Ireland (HRI). The principal feature of the redevelopment will be a new grandstand in the area close to the final fence incorporating a dedicated Owners and Trainers Lounge, a public bar, a champagne bar, additional toilets and betting facilities. This part of the development will cost an estimated €3.8 million, and work on this phase will commence after the Punchestown Festival in 2017.
The overall Punchestown project is divided into two phases, with the first phase starting in May 2016, for completion by the end of the year. This phase will include:
- Landscaping throughout the site and upgrading of the tarmac around the parade ring. The new finish will incorporate coloured and textured material giving subtle direction to specific zones.
- Complete refurbishment of the first floor De Robeck restaurant at the southern end of the parade ring. It will have a contemporary style based on a modern restaurant concept, incorporating booth seating. The restaurant will host almost 300 diners with views of the parade ring and winners enclosure.
- Additional public seating areas.
- Replacement of access doors to the main grandstand.
- Upgrade to the Winners' Room which will be extended to open the area to natural light, improving the experience of winning connections.
- Suspended ceiling finish to both grandstands to prolong the lifespan of the structure along with the installation of new audio and lighting equipment.
- Construction of a new permanent festival press room in addition to the existing press room.
- Improvement of pedestrian circulation, particularly from the parade ring-side to track-side.
Phase two will upgrade the Festival Reserved Enclosure, with work starting after the 2017 Punchestown Festival, to be completed by March 2018. On non-Festival racedays when there is no reserved enclosure, these facilities will be open to all racegoers.
The existing open stand overlooking the final fence will be replaced with a new grandstand which will feature a covered viewing terrace at first floor level and spacious open terracing at ground level. The ground level will also have a traditional bar and a champagne bar. A new Owners and Trainers Lounge with separate dining rooms will be provided at first floor level.
Popular elements of the current festival facilities will be retained and incorporated into the new design, including the hospitality pavilions and canopy-covered Sky Bar.
Phase two will also include:
- Refurbishment of the ground and first floor bars, with themed areas creating more intimate settings
- An upgrade to the turnstile facilities to improve the initial arrival experience.
Brian Kavanagh, Chief Executive of Horse Racing Ireland, said:
"This is the third largest amount of grant aid allocated to a racecourse under HRI's current capital development programme and I am delighted that Punchestown's financial position has improved so significantly that they are now in a position to progress such a major schedule of works over the next two years. This reflects great credit on the Punchestown Board and Management team and its owners the Kildare Hunt Club."
Dick O'Sullivan, General Manager of Punchestown Racecourse, said:
"Punchestown is the home of Irish jump racing and we are conscious that the venue must live up to such a title. Through hard work and a dedicated team, we have continued to develop and grow the Irish National Hunt Festival despite some difficult years. The customer experience is paramount to maintain and grow attendances and now is the time to upgrade our facilities. With the support of our trustees, Kildare Hunt Club, sponsors, Horse Racing Ireland and of course our loyal customers we look forward with confidence to improving the facilities at Punchestown."
The proposed development is anticipated to provide upwards of 80 direct and indirect jobs during the construction phase.