Racing into the future

These are just some of the magnificent new  state-of-the-art facilities which have been completed at Roscommon Racecourse as an ambitious five-year plan comes to fruition at Lenabane.

  The Roscommon People was given an informal tour of the new facilities on Saturday afternoon – and we were suitably wowed by what we saw.

  The project is quite stunning, elevating the already popular racecourse on to a new level, with a range of facilities which, in a significant boost for Roscommon Races, have been enthusiastically welcomed by all stakeholders in the horseracing industry.

  While there has been development work ongoing at Roscommon Racecourse throughout recent years, this latest project is the key element of a five-year plan which was embarked upon in 2014. The project cost around €800,000 and means that Roscommon Racecourse now has facilities for jockeys and trainers which are the envy of many of the country’s racing venues.

  The beautiful new building features a weigh room, male & female jockeys’ areas, Manager’s office, First aid rooms, new press/media room, drug testing room, stewards’ room, sauna/showers, valet room, small restaurant, etc. Future development work will include the extension of the parade ring.

  The magnificent ‘finish’ is a tribute to local tradespeople and suppliers too. The Main Contractor was Biesty Construction. The board engaged the services of Albert Looby of AOL Design Ltd. and there was a huge local involvement on all aspects of the project.

  I was greeted by Racecourse Manager/Secretary Michael Finneran, Board chairperson Dick O’Brien and fellow board members. Mr. O’Brien said that the new facilities had attracted much favourable comment at the first race meeting of the season in Roscommon, held last month. Jockeys, trainers, owners and members of the press were all extremely positive about the development.

  Board director Robbie McConn gave me a first look at the new facilities, accompanied by Albert Looby of AOL Design Ltd.

  The first thing to say is that this is a very striking building, with a beautiful glass façade, and very visible wheelchair accessibility.

  Inside is a spacious reception area and off it are a number of separate areas. Approximately 75 jockeys can be catered for. There are showers and saunas adjoining, and a separate room for valets. Everything is state-of-the-art. Further down, there’s a physio area, then two medical/first aid rooms, one for jockeys, one for members of the public, should any race-goer have a mishap or a health setback. There’s a small but cosy restaurant area for jockeys, a smoking area too. There are numerous TV screens, no doubt reflecting the fact that jockeys want to keep an eye on the action. To the left is a new media centre, a drug testing room, and a Stewards’ room where contentious issues are reviewed and determinations made.

  Finally, Robbie leads us into the new Manager’s office where a nice feature is a display of framed old black and white photographs which remind us of the proud history of the Lenabane course.

  Board member George McCourt is a man who is synonymous with the Roscommon Races’ success story. George outlined how a five-year plan had been submitted to Horseracing Ireland, and has now been delivered on schedule.

  “It’s a great design and one that has been very well received, with very positive feedback from jockeys, trainers, racing officials and members of the public. We had consulted with all stakeholders to get their input into the design of the building,” George commented.

  “What the jockeys really like is the ‘flow’ of it, how well it’s planned, how everything is accessible. We now have private, separate facilities for male and female jockeys, we have a first aid room for jockeys and a separate one for members of the public.

  “90% of the funding that we received went back into the local economy, to local suppliers, and we’re delighted about that,” Mr. McCourt added.

  Before we leave, it’s important to have a quick word with the modest, relentlessly hard-working and passionate face of Roscommon Races, one Michael Finneran.

  He looked and sounded like a happy – and relieved – man.

  Admitting that it had been a stressful few months – in the ‘race’ to have the work done by start of racing season – Mr. Finneran said he was delighted with the completed project.

  “It was great to hear such positive comments about the new facilities at our recent meeting,” Michael said. Michael and all board members expressed their gratitude to Biesty Construction and AOL Design for doing such an excellent job.

  As we prepared to leave, a young man on a ride-on lawnmower was busy cutting the grass. The place was looking splendid. The horses’ stables, parade ring, bars and viewing stand were all lying empty, awaiting the sport, drama, excitement and social whirl that next week – and the season – will bring.