UPDATE: Irish magnate unveils plan for £60m dog track
An Irish business magnate is preparing to invest £60m to transform Wimbledon greyhound stadium into “the Royal Ascot” of dog racing.
Paschal Taggart, credited with saving Ireland’s greyhound racing industry, plans to convert the existing Plough Lane track into a four-tier 4,500 capacity greyhound racing stadium with 700 seater restaurant and corporate boxes to accommodate 640 people, a new “world class” squash club with seven courts and rooftop terrace and a medical centre, dance studio and gymnasium.
Also planned are 400 one and two-bed residential apartments, a 35,000sq ft supermarket with underground parking and a multi-storey car park offering subsidised parking for workers at nearby St Georges Hospital.
He had previously put forward proposals for a £30m four tier stadium suitable for 6,000 spectators, but has since revised his plans taking into consideration the council’s requirement for “sporting intensification” of the area and Christopher’s Squash Club that has been located on the site for the last 40 years.
Mr Taggart said: “I’m not going to make any money from this.
“I will end up with a bill for the greyhound track but my objective is to maintain greyhound racing.
“We have done it in Ireland where we have improved facilities and it works like a dream.
“This is going to be the Royal Ascot of greyhound racing.
“It’s like a mini Olympic village and I think it’s fantastic.
“If there is a better plan out there, then good luck to them.”
He faces competition from football club AFC Wimbledon, who have made no secret of their intention to return to the borough, and track co-owners Galliard Homes and GRA Limited
The football club, currently based in Kingston, hopes to create a 22,000 capacity stadium, starting at 12,000, 500 residential apartments, a hotel, education and retail space and the replacement of the squash courts and gym at Christopher’s Squash Club.
And the current owners have drawn up plans for a 15,000 seater football stadium, residential apartments and retail store and they have said they would welcome the return of AFC Wimbledon.
The track has been home to greyhound racing since 1928, hosted the derby since 1985 and is one of the last remaining dog tracks in London.
Addressing councillors at a special meeting at Morden Hall Park on Thursday Mr Taggart said:
“Wimbledon is one of the finest homes of dog racing in the world.
“At this point in time it’s a total disgrace.
“It’s filthy and it’s been allowed to go downhill.
“I wouldn’t take anyone there – it’s dreadful.”
Planning policy for the area requires any proposals to show “sporting intensification” of the area and an intention to replace the facilities at Christopher’s Squash Club.
Mick Lowe, president of the squash club, said: “Like the rest of the site it is seriously run down.
“We will support anyone who wants to rebuild a squash and sports centre on the site.
“I don’t favour anyone, but these guys are the most advanced in their thinking.
“They have incorporated us in the planning of what we need right from the outset so for me that’s very positive.”
Formal planning applications for the site have not yet been accepted with the council expected to have made a decision on which proposal will be allowed to progress by the end of this year.
Paschal Taggart “creating the Royal Ascot of dog racing"
• A four tier 4,500 capacity greyhound racing stadium.
• 700-seat restaurant with corporate box space for 640
• A new “world class” squash club with seven courts.
• A medical centre, dance studio and gymnasium.
• 400 one and two bed apartments costing £285,000.
• 35,000 sq ft supermarket with underground parking.
• A multi storey car park offering subsidised costs for hospital
AFC Wimbledon/Galliard Homes and GRA Limited “returning the Dons to the borough”
• 22,000 capacity stadium, starting at 12,000.
• 500 residential apartments and a hotel.
• Education and retail space.
• New squash courts and gym at Christopher’s Squash Club.
• 15,000 capacity football stadium.
• 450 to 500 residential apartments.
• A “substantial” retail store.