From Wallum Swamp to grazing land and now one of the country’s finest thoroughbred racing and training facilities in Australia – The Sunshine Coast Turf Club. 30 Years on and what amazing changes.
The Sunshine Coast Turf Club (“SCTC”) conducted its first race meeting on Thursday 25th July 1985. In racing industry terms, the SCTC is a young club but despite its short operating life has now developed into a first class racing and training facility.
The property on which the SCTC operates was owned by Mr. Edward Corbould a grazier.
In 1979 the land was purchased by the Caloundra City Council until the freehold was purchased by the Sunshine Coast Racing Unit Trust in July 2007.
The SCTC grass racetrack is regarded as one of the best in Australia. In addition to the grass track, the club now also has a synthetic racetrack (“Cushion Track”) which was installed in 2007/08. The official opening was on Sunday 6 April 2008 with a lot of fanfare.
This $6 million investment,approved and funded by Racing Queensland is an example of the importance of the SCTC to the larger picture of racing in Queensland.
The cushion track provides an all-weather racing surface, and is the first of its kind in Australia.It has provided a major boost to the Club’s capacity and capability to provide high quality training and racing facilities despite the fairly high local rainfall.
Late 2008/early 2009 saw the installation of lights. Racing Queensland spent a further $7.1 million at Corbould Park Racecourse on the lighting project. There are 960 lights, 40 towers – with the tallest being 42m, and approx. 2 million watts of brightness! Saturday 21st February 2009 saw the opening of our first race meeting under lights and the first of a succession of Saturday meets whilst Toowoomba Turf Club was having their cushion track installed.
Another major addition to the ‘SCTC’ is the On-Course Stabling complex which can accommodate 256 horses within the grounds of Corbould Park. The SCTC operates in one of the fastest growing areas of Australia, and in one of Australia’s favourite tourist destinations, The Sunshine Coast.
With a population of almost 300,000 which is projected to increase to 500,000 over the next 20 years.
The Sunshine Coast Turf Club is undoubtedly one of the finest racing venues in Australia. The $42 million complex, with its unique architecture, picture-perfect gardens, landscape and lake, is a venue that provides for a spectrum of events, not only for residents of the Sunshine Coast, but also for interstate and international visitors.
The Sunshine Coast Turf Club host four major racing events a year being;
• The Sunshine Coast Cup held in January each year
• Ladies Oaks Day held on the traditional Caloundra Show holiday
• The Caloundra Cup held in June/July as part of the Queensland high profile Winter Racing Carnival; and
• Melbourne Cup Day.
With these major events and over 60 other race days per year the Club is proud that each year our visitor numbers increase.
Although Corbould Park is known mainly as a racing venue it is much more than that.
Each year many couples use the beautiful manicured gardens and grounds to be married and after the functions rooms to celebrate. Other events held at the course include Conferences, Trade exhibitions and meetings. Even schools use the venue for Cross Countries, Hospitality Training and most recently the venue was used for Defensive Driving Skills conducted by Rotary International.
On race days the venue is used for a number of special events from Bucks Parties, Birthdays, and many other celebrations.
But all this didn’t happen over night.
Fleas, cockroaches, mud crabs, pigs, dogs, camels, horses – if it moves, man will find a way to bet on it. Horse racing with or without chariots, has been by far the most practiced; an amenity man has taken with him wherever he migrated. The colonists in the Landsborough Shire, a by- product of the Gympie Gold rush were no exception.
Historical researcher and writer Stan Tutt, has recorded that before the railway reached the Mellum Creek settlement (Landsborough) in 1980, picnic races were the main feature of New Year’s Day celebrations.
Early in 1975 the Landsborough Shire decided to explore the possibility of establishing a racecourse at Mooloolah adjacent to the Ewen Maddock Dam. On 17th July 1975 a plan developed providing a racecourse to accommodate both racing and trotting, which was finished by May 1976 and officially submitted to Council on 15th June.
Council established The Mooloolah Valley recreational Committee to investigate viability of the proposal in June 1976.
Meetings were held with the Hon. Sir Gordon Chalk, Treasurer and Minister for Racing Sir Douglas Wadley, Chairman of the Q.T.C on 23rd July 1976. Both Sir Gordon and Sir Douglas tried to discourage any plans for a new racecourse.
On 19th November 1976 The Ewen Maddock Dam was opened by the Hon. William (later Sir William) Knox, Treasurer and Minister for Racing. A meeting of interested people was held in Council Chambers and a steering committee was named to investigate formation of a racing Club in Caloundra and a trial gallop was staged to test the proposed area opposite The Ewen Maddock Dam.[/one_half]
Leading jockey, Peter Cook riding Doug Treloar’s, ‘Thunderbolt’ covered the trial track without incident and later stated that the racecourse at Mooloolah site was feasible.
The 3rd February, 1977 saw the first proposal that the club should be named Sunshine Coast Racing and a Trotting Club. This however was short lived and by June it was decided by the Board to rule out any hope of being issued a license for a Trotting Club.
The inaugural meeting of what was re-named The Sunshine Coast Racing Club was held on the 30th June 1977. The Honorable Mike Ahern M.L.A was invited to be Patron. It was not yet a registered Racing Club. First indications that more land was required to increase the size of the track arose in August, 1977.
Mr Owen Brown was elected as the Club’s first President at the time.
In August 1977 the planning indicated that more land was needed to increase the size of the track. Peter Allan produced new plans for an enlarged track extending into the adjoining property. The Central Sunshine Coast Turf Club was formed at Nambour in September to compete for racing license. Other Clubs were also fighting against a License to ensure their own viability.
New plans were produced for an enlarged track extending into adjoining property and in September the central Sunshine Coast Turf Club was formed to compete for a Racing License which was virtually ruled out by the Racing Minister. Peter Allan was elected to the management committee on March 21st 1978
After strong submissions in April 1978 the Minister relaxed his previous hard stand and requested a viability study.
Further to this, an area of Sippy Downs north was put forward as a likely site but on closer examination this alternative was abandoned and another committee was formed to find an alternative site in Landsborough Shire.
Land owned by Mr E Corbould facing Caloundra Road was recommended on December 11th 1978, as a potential site and was accepted. Mr Corbould’s initial reaction to a phone call about the possible sale of his land facing Caloundra Road was not encouraging. He was more flexible, however after a letter confirming the phone call was sent to him on 30thJanuary 1979. Soon after the letter was sent by Tom Hennessy and Peter Allan which made it clear that the area the club wanted for a racecourse was the section of low lying melon hole swamp.
The success of meetings confirmed that a 50 year negotiable lease for the whole area could be agreed to.
Negotiations were held to discuss the opportunity to purchase the land and lease back to the Club. When Mr Corbould agreed to sell the site to the Council, the Council had made no arrangements for loan finance to fund the purchase or did it have the funds available.
The contract was finally signed on the 4th February 1980 a year almost to the day since Peter Allan first wrote to Mr Corbould. Later the Shire Chairman Jack Beausang stated that “the proposed purchase of Corbould Park, as it was to be named, would be the most beneficial purchase made by the shire since it’s acquired Mary Cairncross amenity”.
At a special general meeting the Club was re-named ‘The Sunshine Coast Turf Club’.
An annual meeting was held on the 1st June 1981 to elect the team to supervise initial construction of the racecourse. All financial members as at the 19th May 1981 were given the general title of Foundation Members . Mr. Les Geeves was appointed Club Publicity officer and Cliff Andreasen was elected honorary auditor.
On the 18th May 1981 the club won the battle for the license and in July submitted an application for QTC registration. Clearing commenced on the site in August with the Minister for Racing agreeing to pay $40,000 for this work and a provincial license confirmed on the 1st September, 1981 and a small site office was erected in October.
Kern Bros. offered to build the complex for $5,688,000 and the QTC granted Club registration. 1982 brought the wettest season seen in 10 years and almost brought construction to a halt. There were discussions with Council re the terms of the lease which were finalized in June 1982.
On the 22nd July 1982, minister of racing the Hon Russ Hinze, MLA granted $1 million to be made available from the racing development Fund for initial construction and he sanctioned Saturday Race meetings, although the grant had to be confirmed by cabinet. On 6th June 1983 the Minister granted approval for the Club to raise $2 million, and Westpac bank agreed to fund the project of $2 million. The official opening of the Club’s offices at Centrepoint Bulcock St Caloundra was carried out by the Hon Michael Ahern MLA.
Construction work commenced employing day labour for the construction and development under the supervision of the Club incorporation.
An important milestone was that in 1983 the membership register was ruled off at 1,000 the highest per capita of any race club in Australia.
A master concept plan was prepared and accepted in November 1983 and action was taken to call tenders for supply of Turf as earthworks approached 85% complete. By January 1984 there was still no ruling of definite race dates. In February 1984 the minister appointed a Brisbane firm of engineers to take an overriding supervisory role of the total project and in March the Governor in Council approved a further $2 million.
John Green was appointed the first Racecourse Manager in May 1984. A trial gallop was planned and held on the newly turfed track on July 28th 1984 proving the track satisfactory. Another great milestone was that Friday 17th July 1984 is noted as a day to remember as all construction was completed.
On the 27th May 1984 300 members were shown around the racecourse which then provided every indication of its eventual splendor. Veteran Jockey Kevin Mitchell and trainer Ian Mitchell predicted that Corbould Park would be a better course than Doomben or Caulfield.
The Committee was aware of the need to develop the Race Course as a tourist attraction while providing a first class facility for the locals. The committee dedicated $20,000 towards promotion of the Club for the first twelve months of its total operation. This amount has since grown and the relationship between Tourism and local business has continued.
By 1984 construction was in full swing, landscaping was underway and distinctive features were a visual timing device, public address system, race information board and false start technology were being in installed. All the pieces were now falling into place. After an important meeting at the Queensland Turf Club the Club was able to report success after so many long and repeated partitions for a full racing calendar.
On 25th January 1985 the Deputy Chairman Tony Long officially announced the opening date would be 25th July with no ‘ifs or buts’. It had been a long road but well worth it.
The opening would be just nine years after the Mooloolah Valley Recreation Committee was formed to investigate the feasibility of a race course.
The whole operation had been described as converting a snake infested swamp into a world class racing complex. A unique factor to be remembered about the creation of Corbould Park is that whereas most courses have been developed gradually from modest beginnings, the Corbould Park design engineers and architects started from scratch and produced a perfectly planned, fully functional and attractive new racing venue ready to see the first barrier rise.
The first race day was held on Thursday 25th July 1985 with seven races. The first horse ever to win at Corbould Park was Mister Omega ridden by R Quinton and trained by Brian Tattam in the H E Corbould Transition Handicap.
The Sunshine Coast Turf Club has come a long way now boasting On-Course Stabling and one of the finest Training and Racing Facilities in Australia.