Newmarket: Work cam begin on the National Heritage Centre for Horseracing and Sporting Art
Building work can now start on a national heritage centre for horseracing as fundraising crosses the finish line on reaching £15million.
The new National Heritage Centre for Horseracing and Sporting Art at the Palace House site in the centre of Newmarket is set to cement the town’s status as the historic home of the sport of kings.
Due to open in 2015, it is expected to attract between 40,000 and 50,000 people and provide an annual £1.8m boost to west Suffolk’s economy.
Peter Jensen, chairman of the Home of Horseracing Trust, which is raising the funds for the project, announced earlier this week at an event with 300 of racing’s leading figures that more than £15m had now been raised for the new centre.
Mr Jensen said it was His Highness Sheikh Mohammed’s generosity “that has now taken us over the line” and would allow the building contract to be awarded later this month.
Christopher Garibaldi, director of the National Horseracing Museum, said: “We are obviously absolutely delighted. It’s a major milestone to have passed.
“What’s so exciting is it means the project eight years in the making ... is now going to be a reality and we hope very much to start building this autumn and that would mean opening in the latter half of 2015.
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“And I think it’s so important and exciting in terms of Newmarket’s economic regeneration: the knock-on effect in terms of the additional tourist visitors it will bring to the town, and I think in terms of the whole region’s tourist offer.
“It really gives us an opportunity to open the world of horseracing to as wide an audience as possible.”
The project will see the restoration of the Palace House Stables and Trainer’s House.
It will provide space for the collections of the British Sporting Art Trust and the Tate, and will also become the flagship home for the Retraining of Racehorses charity, giving the public the opportunity to see real former race horses.
The site will also see an enlarged library and new permanent galleries.
Warwick Hirst, Forest Heath District Council’s cabinet member for health, leisure and culture, said reaching the funding target was “wonderful news”.
He said it would bring financial benefits to Newmarket but would also “lift the image of the whole area”. “People may well stay and see some of the other attractions here,” he added.
Mr Jensen made the funding announcement at a drinks party and stallion parade at Cheveley’s Banstead Manor Stud in support of the current operations of the National Horseracing Museum.
Mr Garibaldi said 95% of the funds had been in place and Sheikh Mohammed’s donation had allowed them to “get across the line”.
Other funders include the Heritage Lottery Fund, which gave £4.25m, and Forest Heath District Council, which donated £1.3m.
West Suffolk MP Matthew Hancock said: “The Home of Horseracing campaign has done great work and I am delighted that it has reached its funding target.
“Newmarket is racing’s international home and it is great that the town will get a first-class museum to celebrate its unique heritage.
“I remember being told about the project two years ago – it has made remarkable progress since then and I’m looking forward to the opening in 2015.”