The grandstand viewed from the new parade ring which has been increased to accommodate 30 runners
Derek McGrath and his team at the Curragh Racecourse spent this morning showing members of the racing media around their new facility and despite the slight overrun in the completion date and the larger issues surrounding the final cost of the project himself and the rest of his Curragh workforce came across as both enthusiastic and extremely proud of what has been achieved.
And rightly so, as this is a world class racetrack that now has facilities to match. The viewing from all areas of the grandstand is excellent and the attention to detail is impressive.
The first thing to note is that everything from the jockeys' rooms, stewards' room, weigh room, press room are all located in the grandstand which spans four floors.
The stand has a capacity of 6,000 inside and a further 6,000 outside on terraces and seating. There are 1,400 seats in total.
Fantastic views of the racetrack from all areas of the grandstand
The lower two floors are accessible to all general admission customers and comprise a large hall 'Champions Hall' at ground level which incorporates a restaurant, coffee shop, bar, Paddy Power betting office and two Tote kiosks.
The first floor has a bar with a large outside terrace that overlooks the racetrack inside the final furlong. There is also high quality seating here to watch the races (500 seats) that is for anyone to use without reservation. The viewing of the racecourse from both this terrace and the seating area are as good as you would see anywhere.
At the opposite end of the stand on the first floor there is a Champagne bar and terrace that overlook the parade ring and winners' enclosure and again this is accessible to all patrons.
General admission prices will vary depending on the meeting - €20, €25 and up to €40 for the Derby and Sunday of Champions' Weekend. There is currently an option to get reductions on these prices by advance booking tickets on the Curragh website.
The advance booking price for their first fixture on Monday 6th of May is €10 if booked online.
The second floor of the grandstand houses a large restaurant which overlooks the parade ring and a seat here will set you back somewhere in the region of €100 on an average day. That includes the food and table for the day and you also have a seat in the grandstand to watch the races.
The Curragh Club lounge which has an annual membership fee of €2,500
The rest of the space on the second floor and top level is reserved for members, sponsors and private boxes.
Catering across the site will be by Fitzers who also have the contract at Leopardstown.
There appears to be ample toilet facilities throughout the stand though I suppose we won't know for sure until it is tested on one of their big race days.
The quality of everything across the site is first class and that includes the toilets where there are even handrails in some cubicles and urinals to help those with mobility issues.
As you would expect with a modern building the whole site is wheelchair accessible and the wheelchair toilets are huge and even have a low mirror which is something which you don't often see.
The main entrance is at the back of the grandstand and there will be a capacity for around 2,000 cars in this area across several car parks. The traditional parking area on the hill near the Ballymany motorway exit is now only intended to be used on big days as an overflow facility and will be a slightly longer walk from the entrance than used to be the case.
Overall it is hard to find fault with anything in the actual grandstand. It is stunning and the viewing is beyond compare. The one area where I could see issues is the betting ring which is located to the side of the parade ring at one end of the stand. It looks a little lost and is not on a direct route to anywhere.
The old area in front of the stand where the betting ring was traditionally located is now just a wide walkway and lawn. There doesn't seem to be any particular purpose for this area and it might serve everyone's interest if there was a second betting ring down there on big days.
There is still no final figure on the cost of the development but it is no secret that it is massively over-budget and in time we will learn all the gory details. For now, we should just enjoy a wonderful new facility that befits the home of Irish Horse Racing.