Realty bucks have put a spring in the step of the sagging horse racing scene in Calcutta, with the Royal Calcutta Turf Club (RCTC) hoping the honeymoon lasts.
The deal inked by RCTC with real estate major Emaar MGF for a 300-room five-star deluxe hotel on the club’s 11 Russell Street premises with Park Hyatt as the hospitality partner, has injected fresh life into the racecourse, thanks to the initial funds flow.
“Yes, we could virtually double the stake money for the Monsoon Meeting, which started on July 16. This has in turn doubled the size of the field and we expect leading jockeys and trainers to turn their gaze back on Calcutta,” RCTC steward Kishore Bhimani said.
It is understood that Emaar MGF Land Pvt Ltd handed over a cheque for Rs 72 crore to the turf club last year as part of the joint-venture deal. The monthly profit-sharing bounty has also kicked in, and the turf club has received the first monthly cheque for Rs 61 lakh (after tax deduction at source and service tax) this month.
While the windfall has enabled RCTC to clear its dues (amounting to nearly Rs 18 crore), the turf club is worried over the delay in ground-breaking on Russell Street. Work on the campus, where the realtor is also committed to convert the heritage clubhouse building into a social club, is yet to commence, and the agreement is yet to be registered.
For the moment though, the welcome solvency has started manifesting on the racecourse, with the club completing construction of stables for 600 horses besides syces’ living quarters on the Kidderpore premises.
“The real renovation, however, can begin only after the army renews the lease for the racecourse,” says J.R. Mukherjee, the CEO of the turf club. The club management hopes to complete the entire renovation work by 2011.
“Once the lease is renewed, we plan to start work on the Monsoon Stands, followed by the Grand Stand,” says Boman Parakh, the secretary and chief financial officer of RCTC. While the condemned third enclosure will also be taken up for repair, the club is planning to set up “at least two restaurants and a well-appointed bar” at the racecourse.