Stadium development

The development of the Valley Greyhound Stadium is progressing at pace in preparation for professional racing licensed by the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB).

The new hare rail was welded from sections

The new outside hare system, which was delivered in mid-August 2022, finally became operational in March. The former hare was a Sumner system that operated 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 This has been replaced by a completely different Swaffam McGee mechanism that runs (in almost complete silence) on a rail sunk at ground level around the outside of the circuit with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 were 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.

New hare rail

The hare rail runs in front of the old starting traps so new boxes have arrived that can be swung on and off the track by powerful hoists. They have now been installed further up the home and back straights. A new inside safety rail, made by specialist manufacturer Barriers International, has also been completed. Much of it was installed by hand by new track owner Dave Barclay and his son Lee – who oversees stadium management at Harlow – who were soaked to the skin after selecting one of the wettest weeks of the year for the operation.

Dave and Lee Barclay

The new starting positions have shortened the run-ups but the finishing line has been moved nearer to the first bend, so the racing distances are not significantly shorter than before. The main standard, four-bend distance is now 460 metres (previously 475 metres). The two-bend sprint distance is 260 metres (previously 286 metres) with the six-bend stayers course at 645 metres (previously 665 metres).

Facilities will be extended all the way down the home straight

The construction of a new building to accommodate a professional on-site veterinary surgery plus a new judges’ box has been completed and has now been fitted out, but this was just the first of a succession of new buildings that are now springing up on the site. Planning permission has been secured to erect a new two-tier building on the currently-vacant platform south of 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. The old stewards’ building was gutted and completely rewired and the vacant space has now been extended further up the home straight to create a spacious catering area.

The purpose-built, glass-fronted camera platform

Whereas many existing greyhound stadia have had to install camera facilities as something of an after-thought, The Valley’s judges’ box features a purpose-built, glass-fronted camera platform right on the new finishing line and the stadium’s floodlights will be upgraded to improve broadcast picture quality. A photo-finish system has been put in, along with an automatic timing system, which means that all greyhounds’ performances are now measured to a hundredth of a second as soon as they cross the line. The system was personally wired by Irish-based Geordie Gavin Smith who is acknowledged as the world’s leading expert on automated trap-opening systems. Work has been completed on the largest new trackside structure, the racing kennels, which stretch from the first bend all the way to the existing trainers’ toilet facilities. The kennel blocks have been finished and  a state-of-the-art air conditioning system has been installed.

A new building to house the stadium’s tractors and other equipment will be situated on the crown of the first bend.

Air-conditioned kennels

It is expected that the extensions will eventually enable the stadium to accommodate between 400 and 500 spectators in comfort indoors with additional standing room still available around the perimeter wall. All of the new buildings are being cladded and trimmed to match the spectators’ lounge to give the development a clean and uniform external appearance.

Kennels will replace the Tredomen FC social club

Planning permission has been secured for an additional development on the other side of the spectators’ car park. The dilapidated former Tredomen FC social club was bought by Malcolm Tams in 2021. Work has begun to gut the building ahead of its refurbishment and repurposing 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.

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 has been 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. 

Malcolm Tams and Dave Barclay kept their promise to keep independent ‘flapping’ going until the Valley Greyhound Stadium was ready to be licensed by the Greyhound Board of Great Britain.

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 invested in new greyhounds and, together with a steady flow of locally-bred pups, they ensured that the racing strength retained its depth. The extensive construction work to upgrade the stadium’s facilities disrupted greyhound racing at times, but ‘flapping’ meetings were able to continue right up to the time when The Valley applied for a GBGB licence. The last ‘flapping’ meeting took place at the end of July 2023. The Valley Greyhound Stadium is now working with existing owners to help them to register their greyhounds with suitable GBGB-licensed trainers ahead of the start of professional racing at the track later in 2023..

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