Hawke's Bay Racing could move across city to the Hawke's Bay Showgrounds in Hastings as part of a wider plan to bring together the region's equine family and create a New Zealand-first multi-use centre for entertainment, sport and culture.
A $50,000 feasibility study will determine whether the proposal could work and it involves bringing together the racing centre, the Hawke's Bay A and P Society, which owns the showgrounds, as well as the owners of the neighbouring Elwood Park, to operate a shared facility.
Details of the proposal were released by Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule, who was approached by the racing centre and the society to help bring the plan together. Mr Yule said he would seek support from his council to pay for the feasibility study, which would take about three months to complete.
Hawke's Bay Racing expected it could sell its 14ha property in central Hastings for more than the $12 million value recorded on its books, to help fund the shift to the showgrounds on the outskirts of the city.
Mr Yule said the racing centre land could be used for an urban development but would have a strong "green space" component to fulfil the city's desperate need for more parks.
Hawke's Bay Racing chairman Mick Ormond said patronage at race meetings had declined and the buildings at the centre were in line for costly upgrades to meet the building code for earthquake strengthening.
There were also problems with parking as the centre was in the middle of urban Hastings.
"The buildings were built from between 1900 and 1960. They were originally built for crowds of up to 20,000 to 30,000 people and we don't get that now.
"We are of the view that at some stage in the next 25 years, our situation will become unsustainable and we feel it's our duty to look at this option for our future."
Hawke's Bay A and P Society president Robert Pattullo said the society had "valuable land" at the showgrounds but with "ageing facilities". The society held its AGM last week and its annual report showed an overall net deficit of $184,364 for the 2012/13 year financial year.
The society's showgrounds hosted the Horse of the Year Show, the region's biggest event, and organisers asked the society to upgrade its facilities, particularly in the stabling area, to accommodate the international standards expected.
"So we see this as an opportunity to develop a world-class facility for the long term. We celebrate our 150th [Hawke's Bay] show this year while the society has been going for 155 years and we want to be here in another 155 years."
Mr Pattullo and Mr Ormond said the new-look centre would be a "game changer" and would include activities outside of the equine disciples, such as entertainment events, arts, culture, tertiary educations and sports academies.
Mr Pattullo said a new racing track would not be built over the 'Multi-centre' historic Waikoko Gardens at the showgrounds.
The feasibility study would look at the possibility of building a new track at the neighbouring 13.2ha Elwood Park, which currently hosts Hastings Rugby and Sports as well as Hawke's Bay Polo Club.
The study was expected to show how the racing centre and the park's current users could co-exist. Private land operated by Drillers Poultry Farm next to Elwood park could also be in the mix for the new development.
A standard race track was 2000m. It would require a small section of Elwood Rd to be closed, to join the showgrounds and Elwood Park.
Elwood Park's chairman Paul Daniel said the park accepted "nothing stays the same" but also noted there had been $1.5 million spent on upgrading the park's facilities recently to ensure its long term future.
"We want to be able to continue to look after the 500 kids who have their early morning (weekend) sport at the park as well as the 200 to 300 kids who enjoy using the park during the week.
"We also have the Hawke's Bay Polo Club which is tied into the equine family and part of the A and P Society and Hawke's Bay Racing, we understand their needs. We are happy to be part of the feasibility study but realise we've got a long way to go."
Mr Yule said the idea of bringing Hawke's Bay Racing to the showgrounds alongside the A and P Society was first touted 10 years ago.
"But this is the first time the two have come together and been prepared to get things moving forward. This isn't something that's going to happen quickly, we're looking at five to 10 years.
"I have to now discuss the feasibility study with the council. I believe we should fund this as part of the council's responsibility to show leadership to look to the future of these organisations."