With the prospect of a major shift to a new joint location in mind, Ipswich greyhound and thoroughbred chiefs paid a fact-finding visit to Cranbourne recently. Cranbourne, Traralgon and Hobart are possibly the only tri-code tracks in the country (any others?) . However, Traralgon’s other codes are in abeyance at the moment.
All well and good, but I doubt if they will learn a great deal. But should they? And is the Queensland project a good idea?
For those not familiar with Cranbourne, it has a huge grandstand with many facilities and fronts on to a grassed area which must be the size of a cricket ground. Then there is a sizeable galloping track, followed by an equally large trotting circuit which many will have seen on SKY. Beyond all that is yet another track where eight tiny figures and eight ants are getting ready to race. They are actually trainers with their greyhounds.
The camera picks up the dog races, of course, but the details can be a bit sketchy on the run to the first turn. The long flat angle means that some runners can be hidden behind others until they actually make the turn.
That camera work is critical because that’s how virtually everyone will be seeing the race, whether they are in the grandstand, at their favourite pub or club, or at home. You could confidently say that the distances at Cranbourne are greater than at any other greyhound track in Australia. Still, distance is not the only determinant of customers’ habits.
More often these days, track attendees watch from the comfort of the track lounge. For example, it’s more than a couple of years since I visited Albion Park (prior to its engineering problems), but viewing from the excellent seating in its grandstand was a non-event. 99% of people at the track turned around and watched the monitors inside the betting area. And that’s at a dual-code track, of which there are many.
Probably the strangest place of all is The Meadows. The club moved from Olympic Park with its very large grandstand, including a VIP area, to a brand new complex with no grandstand at all. If you want to see the race now, stand on a chair or watch the monitors.
Mind you, that’s pretty common practice in Victoria. At Sale, for example, you need a stepladder rather than a chair to stand on. At Warragul, there is room for a galloping track between the lounge and the trotting track – and no grandstand, of course.
All of which contrasts with NSW where grandstands, or imitations thereof, are pretty standard. Even so, in most cases few patrons go the track, despite the fact that the odd bookmaker is still working, unlike in Victoria where they are just a distant memory. Statistics on attendances are not helpful in that they mostly count the dogs’ connections and their families.
Sharing facilities with another code (or two) has many cost advantages but it also guarantees that the vibrant atmosphere and the intimacy of the greyhound race will be lost. A thing of the past, sad to say! If it has not happened already, it soon will.
A saver is sometimes that another activity is present at the site. Aside from a second code, bike racing helps pay the rent at Gosford, Tabarets do some business at a few Victorian tracks, market days and shows can be popular and renting out land is sometimes useful (at Dapto, for example). But this is mostly small beer.
What has to be recognised now is that 99% of greyhound fans will use a SKY picture as their means of access to the sport. We suspected that right from the start as the arrival of SKY meant that betting turnover virtually doubled overnight. Now, 20-odd years later, it’s pretty much all we have to sell. Sure, Easter Eggs and Australian Cups will pull in a crowd, but they provide a bit of cream, not the bread and potatoes for the rest of the year.
Consequently, a good picture is everything. That’s not a great problem at capital city tracks where the camera has good height and close proximity to the racing. The same is not true of many provincial tracks where technical shortcomings are evident – the camera is past the post (Bulli, Casino) or too low or too close or too far away, the lighting is ordinary, too many posts get in the way (Bulli again, Canberra and others), the lens is not powerful enough or the picture is distorted (The Gardens).
For the Ipswich people, I would not worry about Cranbourne but I would concentrate on getting the best and the most professional advice about camera work. Don’t just ask your local contractor but find the best movie photographer available and ask him. All-round excellence is the only answer. Other clubs should do the same, too.
Our suggestions about pinching ideas from others have no boundaries. We don’t normally bother much with religious matters but we cannot ignore this news from Rome, reported in The Australian (Mar 15).
“Pope Francis has warned in his first mass that the Catholic Church risks becoming little more than a charity with no spiritual foundations if it fails to undergo renewal.”
Way to go!