Punchestown encourages locals to go racing, despite expected rainfall

ALMOST 100,000 people are expected to visit the Punchestown racing Festival which runs from today (April 24) until Saturday next.

ALMOST 100,000 people are expected to visit the Punchestown racing Festival which runs from today (April 24) until Saturday next.

Despite the economic downturn, this is in line with the numbers who attended the festival last year. There are fears, however, that heavy rainfall predicted for Wednesday, especially, and Thursday could keep people away.

The racecourse has also held on to the number of visitors coming to the five day racing festival from the United Kingdom at around 20,000.

However, a successful festival is not likely to prevent lay-offs among employees at the racecourse. Staff members are set to be laid off for up to 7 weeks after the festival ends.

“Ticket sales have been good and we have a good response to the to the discount which means that admission rates at 20% less than last year. Is some cases the cost of tickets have dropped from €30 to €20 and advance tickets sales have been very good,” PR Manager Shona Dreaper told the Leader.

Racecourse management unveiled a variety of packages to entice as many people to go to the races and almost all of the accommodation available in Naas has been booked out this week.

However Ms. Dreaper appealed to as many people as possible – especially Naas residents who have moved to the area in recent years – to go racing.

“Many people came with their families to the racecourse just last weekend for Walking Sunday and we’d like to see them return for the racing,” said Ms. Dreaper.

The loss of the annual Oxegen concert – at least for this year - has adversely impacted on the Punchestown’s financial well being, although it is thought that Punchestown management would prefer to see more racing days allocated to the track as a source of revenue.

Oxegen organisers MCD pulled the plug on this year’s gig citing the high costs associated with organising the high profile concert – especially the estimated €600,000 of paying for garda cover. The five day event is a significant moneyspinner for some local businesses – notably pubs, restaurants and clothing retailers as well as hotels.

The vast majority of the overseas visitors to Punchestown come from the UK and the numbers of people for other countries who come are insignificant.

Almost a third of the Irish racegoers are from County Kildare followed by Dublin (27%).

Research conducted by NUI Maynooth estimated the total value of the event at almost €60m – or €53m after the cost of travel is taken away form the total.