Modernised Racecourse Grandstand opens for public

Saturday, 28 December 2013 09:17 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The renovated Colombo Racecourse Grandstand was ceremoniously declared open by Speaker of Parliament Chamal Rajapaksa on Thursday night. Secretary Defence and Urban Development Gotabaya Rajapaksa and MOD Seva Vanitha Unit Chairperson Ioma Rajapaksa also attended the opening ceremony. Secretary Defence and the distinguished invitees inspected all new facilities after the unveiling of the plaque by Chamal Rajapaksa during the event. A brainchild of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the renovation was taken up under Colombo’s modernisation and beautification program. Under the purview of the Secretary Defence plans were drawn-up and the Urban Development Authority was tasked along with the Sri Lanka Army for the process. Thus the old Colonial dilapidated structure became a modernised reality today. The Army’s 6th Engineer Services Regiment and Central Engineering Consultancy Bureau completed the project while preserving its original architectural features. Retaining its historic importance and architectural uniqueness, the new refurbished Racecourse Grandstand comprises a pavilion, restaurants, dress boutiques, sport shops, and handicraft and gift shops. The previous race track has now been converted into an international rugby playground and will be the foremost rugby venue with all amenities conforming to the international standards in the island. An attractive musical entertainment program was also performed during the session. The dazzling musical performances by renowned artistes enthralled the guests the entire evening. The old Racecourse, once a landmark site in Colombo, had been neglected for a considerable period of time. First officially opened for race horsing in 1893, it was considered the best in terms of design, facilities and size in the East. In 1922 it became the first racecourse in the East to be fixed with a totalisator, a tremendous technological achievement of that era. Later on, during World War II, a temporary airfield was constructed at the Colombo Racecourse by the Royal Air Force (RAF). The Naval Air Squadron of the Royal Navy was also based at the Colombo Racecourse. Thereafter the Sri Lanka Air Force used the discarded Racecourse grounds for landing transport helicopters and the Sri Lanka Army has used the Racecourse buildings as a temporary garrison from time to time. Furthermore some of the buildings were used by the University of Colombo. Having lost its past glory, it was entertaining only State functions and ceremonies occasionally. Gradually the place was entirely neglected and became an eyesore in the Colombo’s changing skyline. This 27-acre prime land in Cinnamon Gardens in Colombo had been abandoned for nearly half a century. Distinguished guests including Ministers and MPs, foreign diplomats, Government officials, Chief of Defence Staff, the three-force Commanders, Inspector General of Police, officials of the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development, chairpersons of leading companies, renowned artistes, media personnel, senior military officers and a large number of people were present at the occasion.