Racecourses are looking to diversify out of their equine heritage and extend their exhibition profile and portfolios. Here, we look at five tracks and the key pillars to their events offering.
Cheltenham Racecourse (pictured) has three exhibition venues; Centaur, Gold Cup and Festival, The Hall of Fame. The Centaur facility provides 2,600sqm of space, removable seating, HGV cargo doors, four dressing rooms and the adjoining Istabraq Bar and foyer.
Exhibitions from The Home and Garden Show, Rock and Gem Show and Fashion and Gift Show, to Honda and The Classic Car Show have all taken place there.
Cheltenham’s second biggest space is the adjoining Gold Cup (407sqm) and Festival rooms (261sqm).
Gold Cup has recently hosted a wedding show, gift fair and stationery exhibition. Full blackout facilities and free Wi-Fi is also available here.
The Hall of Fame has 400sqm of space and an accompanying museum of jump racing history and memorabilia.
Conference and event manager at Cheltenham Racecourse Susie Bradshaw said the venue is now able to compete for new exhibitions and shows that have had to downsize recently.
“We don’t try to compete for The Clothes Show Live, but we are an ideal venue for regional events and national road shows,” she said.
“We have 12 grandstand rooms as well as the Centaur, which offer great workshop and seminar spaces. As many are interconnecting rooms, these prove useful breakout spaces for many exhibitions.”
She added the venue is part of the Jockey Club, which offers access to 13 other racecourses throughout the UK allowing opportunities national roadshows.
Carlisle racecourse’s Bell Hall is its main exhibition area, with a floor area of 307sqm.
It is located on the ground floor of the grandstand and is used for a variety of events and exhibitions throughout the year as well as being a public bar on racedays.
The space is often used alongside the course’s outdoor area, in particular as a food hall for the Cumberland Show, which attracts over 10,000 visitors after it moved to the venue in 2010.
The Patterson Suite is located on the first floor of the grandstand and is used as both a conference suite and exhibition area.
For exhibitions it has a floor area of 382sqm and is often used as an extension for exhibitions taking place on the ground floor.
Recently it has been used by the local chamber of commerce for a business exhibition and is transformed into a catwalk area for a wedding show twice a year.
The venue is located just off Junction 42 of the M6, has extensive free parking and 250 acres of parkland.
Carlisle Racecourse general manager Richard Clements said the venue is looking to diversify following a programme of investment by the Jockey Club.
“The new grandstand, built in 2002, has increased the level of business on non-racedays at the racecourse,” he said.
“We have also had a lot of other new facilities built in the last 10 years.
“This has dramatically transformed the facilities at Carlisle and made us into the premier event venue in the area. As with most racecourses, non-raceday events are now a major part of our business and we are constantly seeking to expand in this area.”
Brighton Racecourse dates back to 1783, when the first official race meeting was held in the area.
Set within 20 acres of countryside, the venue has four main exhibition spaces: The Grandstand Hall (985sqm), Premier Hall (580sqm), Silks Suite (340sqm) and Prince Regent (265sqm).
Its main shows in 2011 were a tattoo convention in January which attracted 5,000 visitors, the Surrey Care Association Showcase last March and a wedding fair, also in March.
Samantha Creswell, racing and events commercial manager at Brighton Racecourse, said the venue plans to target more regional venue finding agencies, offering them enhanced commission and cost effective solutions for new bookings taken in the first quarter.
“We have also researched some of the largest companies and associations in the South East and will be offering them added value if they book with us such as discounts off meeting room prices and free syndicate rooms,” she said.
Creswell said the venue has a diverse client base from NHS and associations to private and blue chip companies.
“Our racecourse has 18 meeting rooms – our largest is 985sqm and is perfect for shell schemes,” she said.
“We also have 1,800 car parking spaces which is fantastic for the ease of those attending the exhibitions, and we are only one mile from the seafront.”
Creswell said the venue is looking to more weekday exhibition business to its roster.
Sandown has two main exhibition venues and additional facilities situated in the grandstand.
Surrey Hall is the largest of the exhibition halls. It is directly adjacent to the main entrance and registration foyer and provides a ground floor drive-in facility with 2,740sqm of space.
The hall features multiple loading doors and over four metres of headroom for larger displays. It also includes an organiser’s office, dedicated catering areas and adjacent seminar rooms.
The Esher Hall is self-contained with its own organiser’s office, dedicated entrance and catering facilities.
It has 1,100sqm of exhibition space and is pitched at smaller launch exhibitions, perhaps to test the market, and for private market research events.
Also on offer is the Grandstand & Sandown View on the first floor of the Grandstand, which provide views of the London skyline.
This provides an additional 900sqm of space.
“We see exhibitions as an integral part of our business here at Sandown Park and are looking to increase our profile within the industry accordingly,” said the course’s commercial director Simon Kershaw.
“We currently have an enviable portfolio of diverse events demonstrating our capability to deliver however we are constantly reviewing our products and services to ensure they are market leading.
“Going forward, our intention is to expand this portfolio, in both consumer and trade, to ensure we are recognised as the south east’s premium exhibition venue and seen as much more than a racecourse.”
The racecourse re-opened as a new events venue in September 2007, following a £34 million redevelopment. It can accommodate free parking for up to 3,000 vehicles and is seven miles from Doncaster Airport.
The biggest venue at the course is the Lazarus Exhibition Hall, which offers 3,500sqm. It also has four function rooms, spread over three floors, and a range of adjoining function, meeting and syndicate rooms. Event sales executive Julie Steele said its biggest shows last year accommodated 6,000 visitors.
“We host the International Tattoo Jam in August, which uses all of our possible exhibition space, as well as a summer crafting fair,” said Steele.
The Yorkshire venue’s other leading shows include a logistics expo in September and a Doncaster chamber of commerce event, which this year will be held in March.
Steele said the venue is looking to target the automotive and renewable energy industries due to their strong local presences in the area.
“As we are situated close to Hull, there are a lot of renewable energy business nearby. We also have good links with automobile providers,” she said.
Steele also stressed the venue’s location. “Many people think we are further north than we actually are, so we are always keen to promote our transport accessibility.”
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