A fully redeveloped Ascot racecourse opened its doors for the first time last week (Tuesday 20 July), to a largely admiring general public. According to an HHO survey, 75% of readers thought the new grandstand was either excellent or good. Her Majesty the Queen declared the racecourse officially open on the first day of the Royal Ascot meeting, just 20 months after it was closed for refurbishment.
HOK sport designed the seven-tier stand which boasts 1,000 television screens, seven restaurants, 24 escalators and 265 hospitality boxes. I think theyve done a fantastic job, said Ben Turner, a racehorse owner who has attended Royal Ascot for the last six years. The atmosphere was as good as ever.
HHO readers were not alone in their praise for the new stand. Howard Shiplee, Redevelopment Chief Executive of Ascot Racecourse has since accepted the position as Construction Director for the London Olympics in 2012.
Howards work at Ascot has been rightly praised as showcasing British construction at its best first class facilities delivered to time and to budget, says David Higgins, Chief Executive of the Olympic Delivery Authority. His experience will be invaluable in helping to deliver the infrastructure and venues for London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, as well as ensure we leave a lasting legacy.
But despite the initial wow factor, Shiplee and his team still have a few hurdles to overcome at Ascot. Complaints largely concerned viewing, with race goers experiencing overcrowding in the galleries and restricted viewing on the lawns.
The viewing was not brilliant, Mr Turner explained. Theyve flattened the hill so on the lawn everyone was watching from the television screen. Tom Raynesford, an investment banker from London agreed: You cant watch from the grass and upstairs in the stand it was very cramped.
Officials at Ascot have stated that they are looking at ways of resolving viewing issues. The contractors will not leave until the autumn; ensuring teething problems can be solved in time for Royal Ascot 2007.