RACING Orange’s request for Orange City Council to put $100,000 towards a $1.5 million track upgrade at Towac Park is a good deal, according to some councillors, but others have warned against wasting time by throwing ratepayer money into the industry.
After a lengthy debate, councillors agreed to give Racing Orange a $100,000 in-kind and capital assistance package and consider an extra $400,000 for the project over the next four years, starting from 2014/15.
But the council will allow members of the public to have their say before they sign off on the funding.
Along with $1.3 million from Racing NSW, the council’s funds will go towards a new all-weather training track at Towac Park - relocating the sand fast track from outside the turf proper to inside the track, freeing up space to widen and re-turf the main track.
Only councillor Neil Jones voted against the proposal, but several councillors voiced their concerns and speculated about the track’s future.
Cr Reg Kidd said he was a supporter of Racing Orange, but said the council should consider how much money they had poured into the track in the past decade before making a decision.
“[Racing Orange’s] business case is light weight,” he said.
“If we’re going to do this we want more races.”
Cr Chris Gryllis agreed and said it was about time the council was more responsible with ratepayers’ money after making “substantial” contributions to the track over the years.
But mayor John Davis urged his fellow councillors to support the proposal, saying it had the support of Racing NSW.
“If we didn’t want a race track we should have said three years ago and closed it up and moved on,” he said.
“I can’t guarantee personally it will still be there in two or three years, they need more TAB meetings.
“[But] if we make a decision and give an indication to the industry that we’re not interested, like what’s happened recently in Australia, they’ll pack up and go home.”
Cr Jeff Whitton said since the city lost its greyhound track, throwing more money to the racing industry was a waste of time.
But Cr Glenn Taylor hailed the project as a “good deal” for the council’s investment.
“The fact we have lost racing in this city is the reason to get behind this,” he said.
“Don’t forget we’re going to be looking at every opportunity for industry in this city in next few years, when we get offers like this... we need to take it.”
Cr Russell Turner said he would support the funds, but was sceptical of Towac Park’s future and said the Racing Orange committee was bashing their heads against a brick wall.
“[Patrons] are not going out there because of the substandard conditions and the general ambiance,” he said.
“Racing has changed, people don’t go to the races.
“The TAB, whilst it’s providing funding, is one of the main reasons people don’t go to the races, they can just watch it at the pub or club.”
He said he could not see how Towac Park and its Bathurst counterpart, Tyers Park, could both survive.