The proposed introduction of night racing at The Historic Garrison Savannah has received substantial backing from residents and business owners. An Heritage Impact Assessment, dated October 2013, carried out by Richard Gill Associates Limited, in association with Donald Hankey and Systematic Marketing & Research Services Limited on behalf of the Barbados Turf Club, revealed that the project could be a feasible venture, “as the vast majority of those interviewed felt that patronage would increase, once an attractive set of amenities anf facilities are established”.

“The majority of current patrons indicated that they definitely would attend night racing, and most of the others said they probably would attend, leaving a marginal number saying they may or may not attend, and these were very few among current patrons,” the study said. This commitment, the reported, added, was stated among both Barbadians and visitors.

The study, entitled Barbados Turf Club Proposed Floodlights For Night Racing At The Historic Garrison Savannah, has as one of its objective, a review of the significance of the outstanding visual value of The Garrison Savannah. Among the other objectives are to determine the likely visual impact of the proposed floodlights for night racing; where appropriate, to explore floodlighting alternatives; and to carry out studies of public response and the social impacts of horse racing at night.

The assessment said that since the proposed poles and lighting arrays would create visual impacts, the challenge is to determine the likely appearance and the extent to which impacts could be mitigated, both visually and in terms of the possible social, cultural and other benefits of night racing.

The executive summary noted that the support for amenities like dining facilities, entertainment, security, public transportation, activities for children and improvements or increases in existing amenities, would suggest that respondents anticipate that night racing would become an event which might include family members and not only racing fans. It disclosed that the interest in public transportation after races was higher among locals as the event could attract many from rural areas.

Although not explicitly mentioned, the reported pointed out, there was a hint that there should be some inclusion of local vendors and entertainers.

“There was also hint that businesses in the surrounding area, especially tourist-oriented ones, could benefit from an increase in available and accessible entertainment, which could help their marketability,” the survey found. Respondents felt that the BTC would need to do quite a bit of promotion of such a venture and that the Barbados Tourism Authority should be included in promoting this new attraction in their marketing thrust overseas. They see it, not only as a boost for the Turf Club in its racing portfolio, but also as a boost in tourism for Barbados overall.

Respondents also saw the lighting of the joggers’ track, as a potential to get support from the Ministry of Health, since it offered the opportunity to improve its efforts to reduce the incidence of chronic non-commuicable diseases. The heritage impact assessment also suggested that, based on the “very” high incidence of support for lighting the track and the high status of prospective use, especially among women, this could be an attractive proposition for organized activities.

Regarding the option of an evening Independence Parade, a majority would be in favour, but interestingly, it is higher among younger people.

From the results of the survey, the Turf Club could develop unique selling propositions in pushing the visibility of night racing at The Garrison. The study, however, outlined a number of principals considerations that must be respected in this historic environment. For example, the Savannah must remain in recreational use, new development must respect the special character and quality of the area and effective conservation concerns physical, functional, economic, aesthetic, historical, cultural and contextual factors. (EJ)

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