Day At The Track

Report reinforces club’s commitment to racing

02:13 PM 27 Oct 2016 NZDT
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Chief executive of Alexandra Park, Dominique Dowding
Chief executive of Alexandra Park, Dominique Dowding

Members of the Auckland Trotting Club formally received and signed off their 2016 Annual Report at the harness racing organisation’s Annual General Meeting last night.

“The transformation has started and a bold new future is appearing for the Auckland Trotting Club,” said chief executive of Alexandra Park, Dominique Dowding.

Upon reviewing the 2015/16 financial year, Ms Dowding highlighted initiatives the board is taking to turn around falling racing returns in the coming years. Initiatives have included the decision to incentivise those owners and trainers loyal to Alexandra Park from August this year with further rewards planned in the future. 

Ms Dowding stressed that key to the club’s reinvestment into harness racing has been its success in other aspects of its business, particularly its high-end urban village redevelopment at 223 Green Lane West now under construction. 

She reported to members that almost all of the 246 apartments in stage one and two have sold in just 18 months for a value in excess of $270m. The leasing of the development’s 5,000sqm ground floor retail space is also progressing well with many agreements of lease now signed.

The approval in Auckland Council’s new unitary plan for the rest of the club’s Green Lane West frontage to be zoned ‘mixed-use’ was described as exciting news which would importantly allow for any future development the club may want to pursue. 

Also adding to the property value of the Epsom site has been the construction of a new training centre and long-term lease by The Blues rugby franchise from January this year.

An update was given to attendees on club’s agreed 2014 strategic vision which prioritises reinvigorating harness racing, growing the business including finding new revenue sources, as well as growing the value and returns within the club’s property portfolio. Over the past financial year, Ms Dowding said good progress was achieved in all three strategic pillars and the club’s commitment to financial sustainability remains steadfast.

“The board and management remain focused ensuring that we maintain a long-term strategic horizon so that we can ensure that harness racing is brought back into the thriving industry it once was.”

The club reported a net surplus before taxation of over $6.8m for the 2015/16 year and a small operating loss of $283,190 after depreciation and amortisation. The operating loss was better than forecast and reflected the board’s decision to reinvest more money back into racing.

Auckland Trotting Club president Bruce Carter said performing better than budget in such difficult times for harness racing “shows what a great job our management team is doing led by our CEO Dominique Dowding.” He said the club’s financial performance over the past year is one the board considers as “very satisfactory”.  

“Going forward this board is striving to make sure that the future of the Auckland Trotting Club is secured, which will establish greater stakes at ATC meetings and an upgrade to our facilities. By starting our (owners and trainers) incentives early, on 1 August, the board is predicting a loss for the coming (2016/17) year after depreciation of $450,331. This loss is anticipated until the 2017/18 season when additional income is derived from our developments,” said Mr Carter.  

Alexandra Park’s overall trading operations improved for the fourth year running – up by $1.44m or 15% on last year, noting the club’s function centre hosted over 750 events with functions revenue up 5.8%. The food and beverage division achieved 7% revenue growth, with key race night dining events enjoying substantial growth. The club’s sponsorship revenue was up 9.5% on the previous year.

Such key trading increases have been critical for Alexandra Park given that racing revenue was down again this year due to static industry funding and falling on and off-course betting.

Good news for racing included the club’s ongoing investment in and popularity of the Franklin Park Training Centre, working effectively with Cambridge to improve the racing calendar and maximise the available horse pool, increasing stakes and incentives such as appearance fees, and the club’s commitment to exploring options to increase ownership through syndication.

Ms Dowding reflected on the club’s biggest day in the 2015/16 year – when they learned that then president Kerry Hoggard had suddenly passed away in October last year.

“President Bruce Carter and the board have stayed completely focused and united in seeing our vision through… I know Kerry would be proud,” she said.

Also testament to the board and staff’s commitment was the club winning Best Of The Best for ‘Excellence in Strategy & Planning’ at the 2015 Westpac Business Awards. This year it is a double finalist in marketing and customer service. 

At last night’s Annual General Meeting Bruce Carter was re-elected president of the Auckland Trotting Club, Rod Croon was re-elected vice president, and all other seven directors were returned. 

At the meeting members also approved in principle entering stage three of the 223 Green Lane West urban village development and for the board to proceed with the necessary investigative work.

 

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