Addington Raceway hosts its first harness racing meeting mtomoorow night (Friday April 15) since the eathquake but other issues loom like the main grandstand suffering structural damage and may even have to be demolished.
A cloud hangs over Addington Raceway on the eve of the return of harness racing to the track.
It will be the first meeting since the February 22 earthquake - a lead-up to its huge Easter Saturday meeting.
But while quality fields have been carded for the meeting, Addington bosses are facing far greater problems in coming weeks and even years.
They include discussions on whether the track will even remain the home of Canterbury harness racing.
Rumours have spread through the racing industry about lucrative Government or local body offers for Addington but the track's CEO, Shane Gloury, says they are just that - rumours.
"I don't know who starts these things but we have had no discussions with, or offers from, anybody about them developing Addington as a non-racing facility," said Gloury.
"It has been raised in the briefest possible way in general business at board level but at this stage there are no plans to move to anywhere and we have to wonder whether that would make any financial sense."
The land at Addington was valued at $17 million four years ago and some industry insiders are hoping it can be sold and a new, smaller track with modern amenities and training facilities for young trainers can be built further from the Christchurch CBD.
Gloury says he doesn't believe the figures would add up for such a deal.
"It cost Harness Racing Victoria over $45 million to build a new track from scratch at Melton and even if we got $30 million for Addington we would still be a long way in the red.
"And any new track wouldn't have the 20,000 capacity we need for New Zealand Cup day, it would be further from the city and therefore the functions centre would suffer."
While a move away from Addington seems unlikely, far more pressing are the problems with the main grandstand.
It has structural damage which means it cannot be used and suggestions are it may even have to be demolished.
"We are waiting on a detailed report from the engineers but yes, there is a chance it could have to be pulled down."
That would be anything but a disaster for Addington as the stand is insured for $14 million and is rarely used, with New Zealand Cup day the odd exception.
If it was pulled down Addington could build a better facility with more revenue streams, with even a hotel among the possibilities, especially with so many CBD hotels damaged.
"But we will know a lot more about that when we get the engineer's report."
Gloury said the return of racing to Addington was a huge lift but he didn't know what to expect tomorrow night.
"There hasn't been a lot of places for people to go in Christchurch since the quake, with no local rugby games and a lot of bars closed.
"So we are hoping people come along and take the chance to have a night out." Meanwhile, Gloury says the NZMTC was very pleased with the outcome of the transplanted Interdominions at Alexandra Park last Friday.
"I think we, along with the ATC and HRNZ made the most of a very bad situation and the series went off well."
by Michael GUERIN (Courtesy of The NEW ZEALAND HERALD)