York Racecourse unveils redevelopment by Phelan Architects

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York Racecourse has undergone a £10m (US$15.4m) redevelopment by Phelan Architects, bringing it in line with some of the best equine facilities in the world.

Home to the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival, one of Europe’s leading racing festival premier handicap races, the racecourse attracts 330,000 race-goers each year, as well as the owners, trainers and jockeys of the world’s highest-rated thoroughbreds.

Phelan’s plan is the first comprehensive redevelopment of the northern end of the site since 1908. The scheme comprises a new weigh-in building, complete with a fine-dining restaurant, new saddling boxes and a new pre-parade ring; improved vet and wash-down facilities; and extensive works to the Champagne lawns improving both the view and utility of the original grandstand – the oldest sporting stand still in use in the world, the Grade II listed John Carr Stand, which dates from 1754.

Drawing on the materials of the racecourse with a palette of brickwork, timber and slate, Phelan has separated the equine buildings into clusters to express their different functions while organizing them in a stable yard arrangement, built around the perimeter of the new larger, flatter pre-parade ring, to provide a familiar and calming environment for the horses.

The most significant building and largest single element, the two-story weigh-in building, is on the eastern boundary. Here, the ground floor has been designed with a glazed cloister along its western side to afford views to the pre-parade ring and demonstrate some of the theater of racing as the jockeys and officials conduct their business. A timber construction differentiates the first floor while the roof is broken down into individual volumes to reflect the internal organization. Building forms are kept as simple shapes to minimize the scale and massing of the design and the main elevation, fronting onto the parade ring, incorporates a verandah with a decorative metalwork screen showing Yorkshire Roses and barber pole ribbon columns that provide a visible and recognizable motif of York Racecourse.

Pre- and post-race activities are separated to keep a very clear equine circulation, with unsaddling taking place out of the public eye at the rear and equine showers around a dedicated wash-down yard. Vet facilities are enhanced in scale, with a stocks box and read access to both pre- and post-race activities.

Working around the racing calendar, the 30-month project was completed in two phases, with the main equine facilities opening in May 2014.

The second phase, which race-goers have enjoyed since May 2015, incorporates a new entrance building for owners and trainers, a new Moët Pavilion with roof terrace, and extensive works to the Champagne Lawn including the opening up and framing of the John Carr building.

“As one of the most popular and oldest theaters of British sport, it’s vital that we continue to invest in the appeal of York Racecourse and the experience it offers and so look to continue its success,” says James Brennan, head of marketing and sponsorship at York Racecourse. “By breathing new life into the northern end of the course, while retaining its historic character, Phelan’s scheme has ensured that we can continue to compete as a world-class sports venue, ensuring the horse, the horseman and the race-goer are each given the best-possible experience.”

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