THE $4.6 million sale of Tamworth Showground to Harness Racing NSW will see the city host the annual Mini Trot Championships every Easter.
Harness Racing NSW (HRNSW) purchased the site from Tamworth Pastoral & Agricultural Association (TPAA) late last year after a decade-long fight to secure a permanent home for the local trotting fraternity.
At the championships in Tamworth on Saturday, HRNSW chief executive John Dumesny announced that the site would now officially be called Tamworth Paceway.
The move comes on the back of mounting public pressure from the local trot industry and civic leaders to secure a new track for Tamworth Harness Racing Club – a project promised for nearly a decade, but pushed back in favour of other regional tracks, like Bathurst and Wagga Wagga.
Racing was set to move to a new facility, purchased on the outskirts of town in 2013, but a development application (DA) was never submitted to council.
Mr Dumesny told The Leader on Sunday that pursuing that site would have taken another two years before construction could begin, “so we had to move on”.
He insists the wait will be well worth it, and that without purchasing the showground site, Tamworth would not play permanent hosts to the the Mini Trot Championships – an economic coup for the city.
“This property is ideal for the Mini Trot Championships as it has ample stables and most importantly established camping facilities,” Mr Dumesny said.
“The other amenities assist with the operational aspects of the Championship and what’s more Tamworth is the horse capital of Australia.”
HRNSW has already engaged GHD Tamworth to master plan the paceway with a $2 million commitment to build a new harness racing officials tower, race stalls roof, permanent training stables upgrade and grandstand extension.
Tamworth Harness Racing Club chair Julie Maughan was pleased that the determination of the location of the harness racing track was finalised after a 10-year wait.
"Harness racing in Tamworth has always been here on these grounds and to continue our association is a positive move not only for the members but for the harness racing fraternity in general - they have a permanent home,” Ms Maughan said.
"Moving forward harness racing will jump out of the ground in Tamworth and the North West because of the backing from the board of HRNSW."
While the Tamworth Show will be held at the Australian Equine and Livestock Events Centre next year, HRNSW is encouraging all current operators to continue activities at the site, such as horse, cattle and poultry events.
The gymnasium and boxing academy, Westside Boxing Club, will continue to operate at the paceway.
The Standardbred Pleasure and Performance Horse Association will also hold the State Championships at Tamworth Paceway in 2018.
Tamworth mayor Col Murray was pleased with the future outlook of the site.
“Tamworth Regional Council is pleased with the current direction adopted by HRNSW in not only securing the future of harness racing in the city but a range of other activities on the property,” Cr Murray said.
A record 26 meetings are scheduled for the Paceway under the auspices of the Tamworth Harness Racing Club in the 2017/18 season.
Mr Dumesny said the former proposed track site might be used for re-homing horses, but a decision won’t be made until expressions of interest are sought.