Turf club stuck at Ferguson Park
By ALLAN McNEILallanm@gladstoneobserver.com.au
THE future of the Gladstone Turf Club looks grim with a decision by Queensland Racing to pull out of an agreement to move the Gladstone track.
A memorandum of understanding signed between the Gladstone Turf Club, Gladstone City Council and Queensland Racing in 2002, would have seen the race track relocated from its current location at Ferguson Park, to the new Ashpond Seven area.
The move was seen as a saving grace for the embattled club which has struggled in recent years due to the decline in popularity of regional racing.
The sale of the Ferguson Park land on the Dawson Highway would have given the cash strapped club a boost, with interest from a number of parties including hardware company Bunnings.
But now the track looks set to stay in its present location. "I guess we just continue rowing our boat up the dirt track at Ferguson Park, trying to stay afloat,'' Gladstone Turf Club president Mike Ironmonger said.
Mr Ironmonger said the decision by Queensland Racing was a perfect example of their lack of support for regional racing. "They're the ones that want us to stay lucrative. We now have no avenue of advancement under this site (Ferguson Park),'' Mr Ironmonger said.
The decision came after confusion on Queensland Racing's part regarding details of a Memorandum of Understanding for the move.
The decision by Queensland Racing means there would be a shortfall of about $5 million needed to relocate the track to the new area.
Documents tabled at the latest round of Gladstone City Council meetings showed that Queensland Racing thought that after the race course was moved the land at Ferguson Park would be transfered to them and sold to pay for the relocation.
However, the State Government said that would not be the case and the land would return to the Department of Natural Resources and Mines, resulting in Queensland Racing pulling out of the agreement. "In light of the significant change of circumstances, Queen-sland Racing determined that the Memorandum of Understanding ...on 14 December 2002 is at an end,'' a letter tabled to Council said.
Gladstone City Council environment and organisational development director Brent McAlister said he was still hopeful the track would move and said the council would continue working with Queensland Racing.
But Mr Ironmonger was less optimistic. "Yeah and I'm always hopeful of winning the Casket, but it never happens,'' Mr Ironmonger said.
"As far as I'm concerned there isn't a relocation now.'' Mr Ironmonger said Queensland Racing had also recently decided to take Gladstone's second biggest race meeting, Easter Saturday, off the Gladstone Turf Club.
Mr Ironmonger said the decision raised questions about the viability of the club and meant the nearest races to Gladstone at Easter would be in Emerald.