Stand modifications aim to lure punters

HOPES are high punters will return to the home of horseracing following the completion of £3.5million modifications designed to enhance a much-criticised stand.

HOPES are high punters will return to the home of horseracing following the completion of £3.5million modifications designed to enhance a much-criticised stand.

Improvements made in the winter to the Millennium Grandstand at Newmarket were unveiled yesterday, and bosses said they are confident the true potential of the three-year-old facility has finally been unlocked.

Thousands stayed away from race meetings after the Rowley Mile stand was opened by the Queen in 2000, saying the £20million terrace failed to meet the expectations and needs of racegoers.

Officials have now asked deserters to give the flagship stand a second chance when the Newmarket season begins next week – but admit further investment at the site may be needed in future years.

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Lisa Hancock, managing director at Newmarket, said studies carried out over a 12-month period, together with customer complaints, had shaped the changes made at the course.

She added the work represented a "huge stride forward" for Newmarket, the long-term success of which may have hung in the balance without drastic action.

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"We have one particular hope, that those who gave up on the Rowley Mile when the Millennium Grandstand was opened in 2000 will come back and give it another chance," said Ms Hancock.

"This is very much our key message. More investment will undoubtedly be needed here in the future, but I believe these modifications nevertheless represent a huge stride forward.

"The Millennium Grandstand is a magnificent building, and these changes, which have been completed in time and under budget, will hopefully unlock its true potential."

Racegoers criticised the inadequate lifts and poor crowd circulation in the stand following its opening, complaining of congestion in many parts of the facility, including its betting hall.

To combat this, two escalators have been installed to ease access problems, with a new facility unveiled for owners and trainers.

A roof has also been constructed above the steppings and Paddock Enclosure, while a portion of the grandstand previously reserved for the Jockey Club has been opened to all members.

Following yesterday's official unveiling, leading industry officials welcomed news of the modifications.

Local trainer Luca Cumani said: "When the Millennium Grandstand originally opened, trainers and owners were excluded from the stands.

"Whilst maybe trainers do not mind too much, it is bad public relations not to allow owners, who have runners on the day, access to such a magnificent stand.

"It would have been desirable for the stand to have opened without any teething problems, but as with anything new, it was probably to be expected."

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