The development of the Valley Greyhound Stadium has begun in preparation for professional racing licensed by the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB).
Stadium owner Dave Barclay visited the site to witness the arrival of a new outside hare system, which was delivered in mid-August. The current hare is a Sumner system that operates on the inside of the track via a rather complex (and noisy) array of pulleys and rollers driven by a large aluminium wheel housed near the finishing line. This will be replaced by a completely different Swaffam McGee mechanism that will run on a rail sunk at ground level around the outside of the circuit with much of the drive mechanism concealed underground. The rail arrived in sections that have now been carefully welded together and set into more than 400 metres of specially constructed concrete footings to ensure that the internal cable runs smoothly without snagging. The hare rail runs in front of the current starting traps so new boxes that can be lifted on and off the track by powerful hydraulic arms will be installed further up the home and back straights. A new inside safety rail has been ordered from specialist manufacturer Barriers International.
The installation of the track infrastructure is being managed by Dave Barclay’s son, Lee, who oversees track management at the Barclays’ Harlow Stadium in Essex. The new starting positions will shorten the run-ups but the finishing line will be moved nearer to the first bend, so the racing distances will not be significantly shorter than at present. The main standard, four-bend distance is expected to be 460 metres (currently 475 metres). The two-bend sprint distance is planned to be 280 metres (currently 286 metres) with the six-bend stayers course at 640 metres (currently 665 metres).
The construction of a new building to accommodate a professional on-site veterinary surgery plus a new judges’ box is well under way, but this is just the first of a succession of new buildings that will spring up on the site. There are plans to erect a new two-tier building on the currently-vacant platform above the starting traps on the home straight. The lower tier would accommodate an additional bar area with a separate function room above.
At the other end of the existing spectators’ lounge, the area currently occupied by the track bookmakers has already been extended into the former paddock. It is envisaged that the roof of the current stewards’ building will be extended further up the home straight to meet the new vets/judges’ box.
Whereas many existing greyhound stadia have had to install camera facilities as something of an after-thought, The Valley’s judges’ box will feature a purpose-built, glass-covered camera platform right on the new finishing line and the stadium’s floodlights will be upgraded to improve broadcast picture quality. The largest new trackside structure will be the racing kennels, which will stretch from the first bend all the way to the existing trainers’ toilet facilities. The foundations for a new building to house the stadium’s tractors and other equipment have already been laid on the crown of the first bend. It is expected that the extensions will enable the stadium to accommodate between 400 and 500 spectators in comfort indoors. Additional standing room will still be available around the perimeter wall. All of the new buildings will be cladded and trimmed to match the spectators’ lounge to give the development a clean and uniform appearance.
Malcolm Tams, who owned the Valley Greyhound Stadium for more than a decade, has been retained as a consultant to organise and manage the stadium development. He has ensured that much of the work is being carried out by local people who are also very familiar figures at the Valley Greyhound Stadium. Father and son team Charlie and Christian Darch – who own some of the Valley’s top greyhounds – are in charge of much of the construction work and they even roped in the temporary assistance of another Valley regular, Charelle Jones. Malcolm’s brother-in-law and business partner, Steve Miles – who helps out at the gate on race nights – is putting his decades of experience as an electrical contractor to good use by wiring all the new buildings.
Additional development is planned on the other side of the spectators’ car park. The dilapidated former Tredomen FC social club was bought by Malcolm Tams in 2021. It is planned for this to be refurbished and repurposed as extensive kennel complexes for up to two attached trainers who will be employed to augment the supply of runners for the track’s graded races.
After buying the Valley Greyhound Stadium, Dave Barclay immediately leased the stadium back to former-owner Malcolm Tams so that it could continue to operate as an independent ‘flapping’ track until a Greyhound Board of Great Britain licence is applied for. A number of owners have invested in new greyhounds and, together with a steady flow of locally-bred pups that have recently begun their racing careers, they have ensured that the racing strength has retained its depth. Despite the extensive construction work to upgrade the stadium’s facilities, it is confidently believed that independent greyhound racing will be able to continue right up to the time when The Valley applies for a GBGB licence. When the switch to professional racing arrives, the Valley Greyhound Stadium will work with existing owners to help them to register their greyhounds with suitable GBGB-licensed trainers.