THE mass uncertainty over the Eagle Farm upgrade has become so desperate that the Brisbane Racing Club has explored going it alone and seeking a private loan to fund a key element of the project.
The State Government has committed to the Eagle Farm renovations but Queensland’s best track has been dormant for 12 months waiting for an approval to fund the tunnels.
The tunnel money was to come out of a racing infrastructure fund and was basically a $12 million loan from that fund to the BRC which required State Government approval.
It is unlikely Eagle Farm can reopen without the tunnels as they unlock the master plan to the entire Eagle Farm precinct which will include new residential developments and the existing stables being shifted to the infield.
Attempts to seek updates on the Eagle Farm loan approval have received only vague responses from the Minister’s Bill Byrne’s office, increasing the frustration of top trainers and industry participants.
The Courier-Mail has confirmed the BRC has had preliminary discussions about a contingency plan to seek private funding so the construction of the tunnels can start as a matter of urgency.
The BRC is reluctant to speak publicly about its intentions, as its strong preference remains accessing the existing money which had been set aside for the project.
But BRC chief executive Dave Whimpey did not deny the club had looked into going it alone and getting its own loan.
“The club is exploring all options,’’ Whimpey said.
“Our board has resolved to get the tunnels done and Eagle Farm back in action as soon as possible. We do not want the project to be delayed any further.’’
While racing in Queensland is in limbo, sections of industry are incredulous the State Government has just committed $30 million to build a new netball hub for the Queensland Firebirds.
They have no issue with the champion Firebirds, but point out that the Eagle Farm track would inject countless millions back in the State Government coffers through increased wagering.
Top trainers, including former champion jockey Chris Munce and Brisbane’s premier trainer Tony Gollan, have had enough and want answers on Eagle Farm and the future direction of racing in Queensland.
“At the moment, Racing Queensland, the Government and the BRC are all saying different things and nobody seems to know what is going on,’’ Munce said.
“Trainers just want a bit of direction.
“Are the tunnels going to happen and, if so, what is the expected time-frame?
“Are the infield stables going to get built and when is that going to happen? When is the track going to open? Basically, nobody seems to know what is going on.’’
Gollan said the delays in the Eagle Farm redevelopment were not only affecting Brisbane trainers, but were a black mark for the entire industry in Queensland.
“At the moment the silence is deafening and everyone is in limbo,’’ Gollan said.
“The Eagle Farm renovations have been a debacle and this, in turn, is putting a lot of pressure on other tracks in southeast Queensland.
“Every stakeholder in racing just wants a bit of action. But this sport is way too political in Queensland and everyone seems to want to blame somebody else.’’