Belfast Telegraph

They're off... Drumbo reopens as conference venue with more greyhound racing in the pipeline

Drumbo Park is up and running again with conferences and business breakfasts on the menu
Drumbo Park is up and running again with conferences and business breakfasts on the menu

By Caitriona McBride

Drumbo Park Greyhound Stadium has been reopened as a conference and events venue as well as a racetrack after it was bought over by an ex-employee.

And operations director and new owner John Connor said it would be increasing the number of weekend races after the takeover.

He bought over the venue a few months ago after it shut down with the loss of 44 jobs, bringing to an end 11 years of trading.

The directors had said at the time that there were a number of factors behind their closure including the rise of online betting, a lack of government funding and restrictive licensing laws here, as well as a decline in the number of customers and racing dogs.

Mr Connor was an employee under the original management and worked as a racing manager.

The operations director said: "We have only really raced on Saturday evenings since we opened in the summer but we are increasing from this weekend. We took a decision to go on a slow and steady soft launch when we opened.

"Business has been growing and now we are moving more into marketing and advertising to let people know that we are open.

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"We are confident now and we have spent a lot of time investing in our staff and making sure we had the operations right."

Mr Connor said he was informed in January along with other staff that the company was in liquidation and would be closing

He said that he and Nicholas Rose, now commercial director, had formed a company called Run with Passion, making a deal with the liquidators to buy all the assets including the racing equipment. However, Mr Rose said the amount paid for the assets and the amount invested could not be revealed.

However, he said the reopening had not received any public funding, claiming that horse racing in Northern Ireland as well as the greyhound racing sector in the Republic were all supported by public funding.

Mr Connor said: "We have reopened and rebranded as a conference and events venue as we want to make sure we are utilising the site which goes beyond the racing, and that we are diversifying,"

They now have a total of 11 employees and have brought in a partner to manage the restaurant side of the business.

Mr Connor said he has taken a lean approach to their business model and their priority was getting the business operating to a high level and efficiently before marketing.

"We didn't want to go in all bells and whistles. That was the right thing to do," he said.

"We were finding our feet and investing in our staff and now things have come together for everyone, which is nice."

Mr Connor said they are trying to encourage different events like weddings, civil ceremonies and business breakfasts.

"We are in a great location for business breakfasts as it is a high-spec facility and very competitively priced compared to the city centre. Also, people can avoid city centre traffic and we have a car park that will facilitate over 200 cars," he added.

There is just one other greyhound course left in NI, at the Brandywell in Derry.

The former owners of Drumbo Park included Michael McAdam, who also owns the Movie House chain of cinemas.

Mr McAdam said at the time that licensing laws had also put an end to Sunday service events and that lobbying in Stormont had not changed the situation.

Belfast Telegraph