Will Canterbury survive the new millennium ?
In the early 2000’s the change in Sydney’s demographics and the combined strength of pay television and the TAB meant that crowds at Canterbury were falling dramatically to an average that would not have been contemplated in the 1960s and ’70s. Night racing, while never reaching the popularity of the first nights “curiosity stakes”, pleased the STC Board in the first year of operations. Pat Parker observed that one of the features of racing at night was the change in the “mix of the crowds” in which the percentage of paying customers was higher than for Saturday and mid-week meetings. Another factor was the improved turnover of bookmakers’ figures, on some nights,
During 2002 the question of selling Canterbury Park continued to be a part of the STC Boards considerations. However, members were not in favour of it and the club was forced to take it off the agenda. McHugh, as chairman, defended the right of the Board to discuss such issues and to look at the feasibilities of each of the STCs properties. There was a need for each venue to show a return on investment and the quest to turn both venues into around-the-clock paying propositions was more a priority in the 21st century than ever before.
However, by 2005, the prospect of Canterbury Park being sold had lost its impetus. The possibility of a state-of-the-art recreational complex, with a golf driving range and a club for members with a gymnasium, a number of fitness aspects, cafes and bars, were appealing and a draft submission, developed by the soon-to-be chairman Alan Brown, formed part of a motion not to sell the course. The Board had looked favourably at the long-term strategies for the racetrack and took any plans to sell Canterbury off its agenda.
In 2007 Canterbury was much further along the road to a huge make-over, the club, at this point, was in negotiations with World of Golf Australia to develop jointly a world class golf driving range and practice facility in the infield, as well as other related facilities in the grandstand which included gymnasium and, in time, club facilities, and may even include a hotel and/or a registered club. The facility was modelled on a successful and similar enterprise which had been operating in South Africa for 10 years. The World of Golf and the STC had agreed to maintain a “green belt” environment by planting 4000 native trees, low-lying shrubs and grasses. The project, which was to include a golf retail store, a golf teaching academy and demonstration centre,
The STC also had plans for development of a complex on the corner of John and King Streets, whether it was residential or commercial; development assessments were also carried out on its Princess Street car park as part of the mix but it all hit a hurdle in late 2008 with the dramatic decline in the world economy and a new “player” in the mix — a proposed merger between the AJC and the STC.