Chester Racecourse have announced the launch of several new initiatives across their offering, aimed at improving the experience of both industry professionals and racegoers on race days in 2017. And with under 100 days to go until season commencement and the three day Boodles May Festival opener, preparations are well underway to ensure another successful start to the racing season at Chester.
Chester hold racegoers and visiting industry professionals in equally high regard and have concentrated efforts on improvements geared towards impacting both areas. Objectives towards Owners and Trainers at Chester have always been aimed at driving the number of runners and this continued in 2016, with the introduction of a never before attempted prize fund initiative within the industry; to reward visiting Owners with a minimum £400 payment contribution each time their horse ran at Chester during the season.
This pioneering move, adding to an already exemplary package for Owners, aimed to further encourage grass-roots level upwards involvement through a dedicated cost contribution from Chester and was well received amongst visiting Owners to Chester, with a 14% increased attendance, a 6% increase in the number of runners and 20% reduction in the number of non-runners. The move was also recognised industry wide as Chester was awarded the Owners Experience Award at the RCA Showcase Awards and Best Large Racecourse of the Year (for the second year running) at the 2016 Horseracing Awards, alongside the ROA Gold Standard Award for the 9th year running.
Chester’s unrelenting commitment to enhancements in this area show no sign of slowing, as this year, Chester introduce an increased minimum payment contribution of £500 to Owners visiting Chester in 2017. Chester Race Company Chief Executive, Richard Thomas said:
“We were delighted with the response to our £400 minimum prize fund introduction in 2016 and the resulting increase in runners and decrease in non-runners. Chester still remains the only racecourse in the country not to run a race for less than £10,000 and our aim is to ensure Chester remains the number one choice for Owners when making that all-important decision on where to run during the flat season.
Conversely, we aim to replicate this successful model and demonstrate our commitment to Owners and Trainers at our sister Racecourse Bangor-on-Dee. And whilst racing at Bangor-on-Dee may attract a different audience to Chester, we are working towards comparable objectives and addressing the importance of investing in the Owners and Trainers experience and the necessity to incentivise them to bring quantity and calibre racing at Bangor-On-Dee. This week, work starts on a £150,000 renovation project, as the Owners and Trainers facility at Bangor-on-Dee is overhauled and modernised.”
Investment in the Racecourse infrastructure at Chester will ensure an improved race day experience for the wider contingent of attendees in 2017, with £250,000 invested in an additional number of large screens across the Racecourse footprint. The additional digital screens will enable racegoers to watch home and away racing from clearer vantage points and Chester to promote live betting odds, engaging and interacting with racegoers in real time. Investment will also fund a digital Winning Connections board, offering better sponsorship opportunities to race sponsors and Racecourse partners and contribute to more efficiently run race day operations. A new canopy over the Parade Ring will provide shelter against the elements and provide smooth passage to and from the Entertainment Suite and Owners and Trainers Facility.
2016 saw the introduction of a new premium enclosure; The Winning Post – doubling capacity on the same area the previous year and achieving a 40% growth on spend per head across the season, demonstrating the benefit to implementation of new bespoke environments around the Racecourse for commercial and experiential reasons.
Provision has been set aside for a new Parade Ring Corner Food Court, offering racegoers a more diverse cuisine offering, for those looking for a healthy/alternative option. A brand new Cedar Bar facility will enable racegoers to choose from a wider choice of beverages, ease of access, speed of service and close proximity to the track, to those with access to the Paddock area of the Racecourse. Chester Race Company Chief Executive, Richard Thomas said:
“Investment in improvement to race day facilities for racegoers is paramount. We constantly benchmark against other racecourses and wider leisure industry experiences and recognise the importance of customer experience and satisfaction. Through continually monitoring customer feedback throughout the season and measuring against internal and external parameters, we’ve been able to identify areas of importance that require attention. In turn, we hope our active investment in a variety of areas will demonstrate our ability to listen and act and in turn, both please returning racegoers and influence the acquisition of new customers to the Racecourse and race days at Chester.”
And with raceday experience at the front of mind, Chester continue to provide innovative raceday solutions through in-house betting function chesterBET. The Race Company have signed a five year agreement with Premier Gateway International (PGI) to provide wagering services at Chester and Bangor-on-Dee Racecourses, commencing this month. The partnership has a number of strategic phases, but in the first instance includes delivery of the existing wagering platforms – ChesterBET and BangorBET – which have operated since 2012. A mobile solution, facilitating the placement of bets on digital devices, without the need to make multiple visits to traditional points of sale, is to be launched by May; in time for the start of Chester’s 2017 season.