In a lively Q&A session over two hours on September 7, that included questions on notice and without, the chairman, CEO and executive members continued the policy of keeping club members informed.
A question on a ferry service between the two metropolitan tracks, both positioned on the Swan River, provided a good analogy of the meeting.
While the CEO Stephen Wicks is far too serious a person to ask the obvious question, “who pays the ferryman?” your humble correspondent was not so reticent.
For the uninitiated ‘Who Pays the Ferryman?’ was a good 1977 BBC drama, starring Jack Hedley, about a Brit who had served on Crete in WWII and returned 30 years later to the island. He found the ghosts of the past waiting for him and those who would do him ill.
For those who like ancient mythology, Charon was the ferryman who carted people off to Hades. It was customary to place coins in the mouth of the deceased so the ferryman could be paid.
The CEO said a ferry service was not a cost effective way of getting people to Ascot or Belmont but left open such a service, if government was interested, to cater for future race and football crowds (at the new stadium). A marina for private boats would be included in the new redevelopment plans for Belmont.
Yet Perth Racing can perhaps be likened to a modern ferryman with the objective being to take members on a new developmental journey to provide greater service.
Mr Wicks said prices beverage prices had been reduced by 10 per cent in public areas and 20 per cent in the members areas with $50,000 allocated to customer service training.
“We are more competitive with other like venues and the discount has cost $500,000.”
Marketing Manager Jamie Chadwick said the club had decided on a general reduction in the above area rather than just give seniors a membership fee reduction.
The work on easing liquor licensing restrictions remains a work in progress but it may be some 12 months away from change being affected. There remains a tension in getting relaxation without promoting binge drinking.
The club has been working with RWWA to focus on wagering, including fixed odds. Wagering on-course or with RWWA would ensure all profits are returned to the WA industry.
Bookmakers had been helped with the abolition of mid week stand fees but there had been a significant income decline of $1.6m from this quarter in commissions paid over the last 18months. The bookie appears consigned to racing’s past, not future.
Reserving tables for friends who have not arrived is not in line with club rules. Likewise at Belmont saved tables in the Placid Ark area will be removed if not used.
However, Gold and Silver Members will be able to use the Promenade Deck on important days (Perth and Melbourne Cups). But the ‘wasted’ seating for absent Gold members in the Ascot grandstand in front of committee room lounge may well be reduced to accommodate regular members who sit there for most of the year before being excluded for big races.
On redevelopment $25m has been earmarked for Belmont from funds received from the developer. Another $12-13m is slotted for Ascot to provide comfortable facilities for patrons while $10m has been used to retire debt.
The new Belmont facilities will provide for 5000 in the grandstand area. In addition the developer will provide funding for a two storey health club and function rooms. Both will focus on the track with views of the city from the back.
Other infrastructure items the developer would be providing at Belmont would include new improved stalls, veterinary and jockey rooms and rolling yards etc.
Chairman Ted van Heemst, said the relationship with Singapore would be strengthened with night racing under lights (at a cost of $7m for rotational lights) under consideration.
“If you ask for a time frame it would be a case of throw a dart at the moment,” the chairman said. However, Mr van Heemst said the club was keen to pursue this northern connection so that Perth racing had a regular Asian market to penetrate. This is probably two years away.
Discussions are under way to get guest jockeys such as top Singaporean hoop Joa Moreira (who recently rode the card at one fixture with eight wins) and UK based international rider, Frank Dettori, to Perth for the summer carnival.
Big screen viewing is also a priority for next year according to Messrs van Heemst & Wicks.
New televisions are also a priority. “As the old box TVs have gone down we have not replace them but there big plans for the new grandstand,” the Racing and Vision manager, Marty Young, said.
The museum at Ascot, has been closed for some time and resembles the budget black hole that politicians love talking about at election time. The club chairman conceded it needed a new strategy. The CEO said the current concept of museums had probably passed.
“Traditional and historic items need to be exhibited in a modern and contemporary way which means integrating such pieces throughout the race course rather than in just one area,” Mr Wicks said.
On presentation matters the club agreed with the proposal that artistic touches could also benefit from fresh flower arrangements, on special days rather, than plastic flowers that lack lustre.
In reply to a question on the Perth Cup rating the Vice Chairman, Harvey Crossman said the race is currently rated the highest ever and there is no fear of a down grading.
The AGM will be held on Monday October 28, all members welcome.