The hare will soon be running at Oxford Stadium as plans to reinstall greyhound racing gather pace as part of the multi-purpose venue’s major regeneration programme.
The historic Cowley site reopened to the public for the first time in a decade earlier this month as the world-famous Oxford Cheetahs returned to competitive speedway racing in front of sell-out crowds.
Oxford Stadium Managing Director Kevin Boothby – who acquired a 10-year lease from site owners Galliard Homes in June 2021 – is now hopeful of hosting the venue’s first greyhound meeting in June.
An inspection by the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB) to ensure the stadium’s facilities meets its strict Rules of Racing requirements will be carried out imminently with a view to hosting meetings every Friday night through the summer.
Fixtures will be expanded to accommodate Saturday evenings and weekdays beyond this.
A Racing Manager who will oversee all aspects of the sport’s return to Oxford has been recruited and a major sponsorship agreement with bet365 will see two Category One competitions – worth £10,000 to the winner – hosted before Christmas.
“Reinstalling greyhound racing at Oxford Stadium is crucial to our long-term success,” said Mr Boothby. “Work onsite to ensure our facility meets the GBGB’s racing and welfare requirements has been relentless for almost 10 months, and we’re pleased to be in a position to plan for our first meeting back.
“Since first receiving the keys in June last year, it has always been our ambition to transform Oxford Stadium into a go to venue for residents and people living within the city’s catchment area.
“We’re not only bringing the good times back, but also delivering the highest quality racing possible and look forward to hosting major Category One competitions before the turn of the year.
“We have been overwhelmed by messages of support from people living locally and across the UK concerning greyhound racing’s return to Oxford. We’re confident we’ll be in a position to host our first meeting in June.”
Already, more than £250,000 of the £1.2million invested into restoring the stadium to its former glory has been committed to providing world-leading standards of care to all greyhounds associated with Oxford Stadium.
This includes installing state-of-the-art kennelling facilities, complete with air conditioning and central heating, recruiting a dedicated team of onsite veterinary experts and laying over 1,000 tonnes of sand to provide the safest racing surface possible.
Mr Boothby has also pledged to find every dog that runs at Oxford Stadium with a loving forever home once they retire in partnership with the Greyhound Trust and the GBGB’s Greyhound Retirement Scheme.
He added: “Racing greyhounds live luxury lifestyles at home where they are able to play, gallop and walk with their kennelmates and dedicated kennel hands every day.
“They’re fed the highest quality foods to stay healthy and are subject to extraordinary levels of care which go way beyond the requirements for any domestic pet owner in the UK.
“Greyhound racing is what is making Oxford Stadium’s return possible. The dogs are superstars in our sport, and it’s our responsibility to educate people about how we care for and love these magnificent animals via school visits, open events and online campaigns.”
Reopened in April 2022, Oxford Stadium is a multi-purpose sports and community venue based on Sandy Lane in Cowley. The stadium first opened in 1939 and hosted speedway and greyhound racing for 73 years before closing in 2012.
Facilities include a panoramic grandstand restaurant, executive suites, a health and wellbeing centre managed by the Frank Bruno Foundation and space for event hire and conferences.
Tickets and hospitality space for the first greyhound meeting will be confirmed soon via the Oxford Stadium website – www.oxford-stadium.co.uk.