IN THE MOOD: Mhairi Morrison and Liz Larkin in the grandstand at Broadmeadow as horses cross the finish line in race five yesterday. – Pictures by Peter StoopTHE impact of Newcastle Jockey Club’s track closure was felt yesterday when a modest crowd of about 5000 turned out to the once-popular Boxing Day races at Broadmeadow Racecourse.
Club chairman Geoff Barnett was hoping for a crowd of between 8000 and 10,000 for the event that attracted about 16,000 at its peak in the early 2000s and netted the club about $750,000.
Racing NSW officials closed the track on October 20 when the Australian Jockeys Association expressed concern about track safety.
The NJC spent ‘‘hundreds of thousands of dollars’’ on repairs.
Club chief executive Cameron Williams said it had cost the club a similar amount in lost revenue while it was shut.
‘‘Financially it will be hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the majority of that leakage has come through lost food and beverage revenue,’’ Mr Williams said.
‘‘Where we would have had the racing marquees and restaurants all pre-booked, we obviously had a lot of cancellations and we certainly suffered as a result.’’
The NJC recorded an operating loss of $1.6million three years ago that was reduced to a loss of $140,000 last financial year but that was expected to blow out again next year as a result of the closure.
It has also forced the NJC to offer reduced membership renewals for 2012-2013. It is also offering an interim membership.
‘‘We’re rolling out a discounted membership renewal platform for next year, Mr Williams said.
‘‘We’re also rolling out a six-month membership program from now until June 30 at a reduced rate as well, which we don’t usually do.’’
On the bright side, track repairs got a tick from jockeys who inspected the track after the running of the first race on the eight-race program.
‘‘The track is as good as it’s ever been,’’ Mr Williams said.
‘‘The jockeys went and had a look at the track after the first race today and came back and said it was perfect.
‘‘We’ve seen a number of class records set today and we wouldn’t see those records being set if they couldn’t hook around the turn and get a bit of pace up.’’