When you think of greyhound racing in Ireland, you immediately think of Shelbourne Park. Since it opened in 1927, the racecourse in Dublin has long been the home of many of the sport’s biggest events. Since the closure of both Belfast’s Celtic Park in 1983, and Dublin’s Harold’s Cross in 2017, it has earned premier status and become known as the home of Irish racing.
However, for fans up and down the country, greyhound betting may have looked in some doubt, following the news last month that owner of the track wanted to develop the site for housing – putting the future of the sport in major doubt.
Pembroke Estates Management (PEM), controlled by Aline Finnegan owns the stadium grounds, which comprises the racetrack, over a distance of 5.5 acres. But, the adjoining building, covering an additional 2.2 acres is owned by a subsidiary of Greyhound Racing Ireland (more formally known as Rásaíocht Con Éireann, or RCÉ). The planning statement, issued to Dublin City Council suggested:
“The lands have the potential to accommodate over 750 residential units in a mixed-tenure development which could provide a mix of social [and] affordable units, build-to-rent, build-for-sale and cost-rental apartment units.”
Thankfully, a further statement from the RCÉ revealed that racing will continue at Shelbourne Park for another 30 years – and potentially even longer, as it holds a 99-year lease over the land owned by the PEM. Previously, the RCÉ had revealed plans for making improvements to both the stadium and the track itself – with the board unanimously voting to improve the facilities for all associated with the sport to upgrade the overall experience. These works are set to begin next year.
In a statement of their own, a representative for the RCÉ announced:
“RCÉ is fully committed to the long-term future and development of greyhound racing activity at Shelbourne Park,
“This flagship stadium in the RCÉ portfolio is to greyhound racing what Croke Park is to Gaelic games and it remains a significant social and cultural asset to the people of Dublin and Ireland alike.”
Greyhound Racing Ireland have owned the stadium since 1968, making the purchase then to prevent redevelopment happening. Several investments have been made over the years, including installing a new totalisator system, as well as several other enhancements. Their most recent plans are set to take place in two instalments, and will cost an estimated €2.3m. The majority of funds will come from the selling of Harold’s Cross and will see a whole of host of improvements. There’s no denying that the RCÉ see the future of the sport remaining in the capital, and such is its importance on the greyhound calendar.
The stadium recently played host to the 2022 Easter Cup – a long-standing fixture in the season – which was inaugurated in 1928, the year after Shelbourne Park was opened. The racecourse also has a rich history of hosting other crucial events, such as Irish Greyhound Derby, the Irish Oaks, and the Shelbourne Gold Cup. Over the years, it has also been the home of the St Leger, Champion Stakes and Juvenile Derby. The update from the RCÉ will be music to fans’ ears, who were worried about he future. However, the developments will hopefully lay the foundations so the sport can continue to thrive in Dublin – and have a successful future.