Racing: Revitalising Forbury Park the goal

Forbury Park Trotting Club general manager Zelda Jordan wants the public back on course at Forbury Park. Photo by Matt Smith.
Forbury Park Trotting Club general manager Zelda Jordan wants the public back on course at Forbury Park. Photo by Matt Smith.
Getting the public back on course is one of the goals of Forbury Park's Zelda Jordan.

Jordan was appointed as Forbury Park Trotting Club's general manager last month, after acting in the role since May. She is now deep in the world of harness racing, having arrived at the club in May 2010 after 18 years in the health industry.

''I had had no background in horses at all,'' Jordan said.

''It was just another opportunity in an administration role - systems and processes and a new change.''

One thing that captured Jordan's attention instantly when she settled into her original role of office manager was the links forged between people in the industry.

''There are so many connections and periods of time people have been involved in it, and the family connection,'' she said.

It is that sense of family and community that could be the driving force to getting the public - be it punters or simply Dunedin people - back on course.

''We've just got so much scope. There's so much potential to reignite all those relationships we had with the community which had slipped away over time,'' Jordan said.

''It's a great facility that's under-utilised by the community as a whole but as a racing venue, people don't use it, either.''

The trotting club's focus is around race days, developing racing and improving the facilities, as commercial tenants have control over other facilities outside race days.

Many harness racing clubs around New Zealand have set up syndicates to bring new owners into the sport, and it is certainly an option for Forbury Park.

Jordan acknowledged the support Forbury Park has from owners and trainers, and is looking forward to developing incentive schemes to recognise their loyalty.

''It's not just about those who are training and driving. It's about spectators and owners and syndicates that people can get in at grass roots [level] without costing a lot of money,'' she said.

She wants to make sure it is affordable, ''something you do with your mates or colleagues and it doesn't have to cost a lot of money but you come down here and have a good time''.

Converting racing fans into members is also a challenge for Jordan and the management structure.

''We've missed out a whole generation of membership.

''We've got a lot of older people who have been here a long time and we don't have very many young people coming through, so it would be good to be able to get some passionate young people back into the industry again and get them back on course.''

Jordan has authority delegated to her by a board of management headed by chairman John Henderson, comprised of two independent appointments and one delegated committee member. Jordan grew up in Winton and has two sons, Tom (11) and Harrison (9).

Still too early to call time

You are right Hype.O.Thermia, but they can still try to rekindle enthusiasm.

There may be room for both at Forbury speedfreak; however, the boy and girl racers would still have to stump up for an asphalt pad where they can ruin their tyres.

Time to share the track

I believe the boy racer fraternity are looking for somewhere suitable to congregate since the rc car track and JW drive are no longer available. Would get more use from them than the horses.

You can promote water to a horse

Sv3nn0 says, "The racing fraternity is doing all the right things to try and get the public interested again" but it looks like they are in the same situation as the rugby fraternity. There are just too many other things people choose to do with their time nowadays.

Gone are the days when NZ revolved around rugby, racing and beer. Of the three beer is holding its place best, partly through bulk beer for binge drinkers who don't care what it tastes like as long as it is cheap and intoxicating, and at the other extreme the craft brewers who concentrate on quality over quantity or cheapness.

Rugby has concentrated on quantity and the result has been many former enthusiasts being turned off by overload. Getting together to enriching the Wingatui experience for the public might be the racing fraternity's best bet, rather than trying to turn the clock back at Forbury.

A bit early to call time

There's no need to take the track away and make gardens (which most people have room for in their backyards). The racing fraternity is doing all the right things to try and get the public interested again. Christmas at the races promotions, Melbourne Cup day promotions and this new appointment all point to the local racing industry doing a good job of putting themselves out there as an entertainment option.

A better use for Forbury

The position at Forbury is well summed up by the new General Manager who is quoted in the story as saying, ''It's a great facility that's under-utilised by the community as a whole but as a racing venue, people don't use it, either.''

The so-called glory days of large numbers of residents coming out for a night or day at the trots are long gone and doesn't it make sense for this whole facility to be combined with Wingatui, which is also another heavily under-utilised course, and the land at Forbury converted to community gardens or allotments? Much of the city's green waste could be composted on a commercial scale and used to support the gardens which would generate income for the city and provide affordable produce, any surplus being made available at Farmer's markets.

The only thing that seems to get in the way of ideas like this is the entrenched and blind positions held by a few people in both the trotting and racing fraternity that don't seem to have realised that their times are over.