Feature: Romford stadium, leading from the front
- Credit: EMPICS Sport
Recession, a miserable winter, credit hard to come by – business is not booming.
But one Romford landmark is still pulling in the punters six days a week and thriving on the back of it.
As the Recorder visited the site phones were ringing regularly at the offices of the Coral Romford Greyhound Stadium, in London Road.
“We do well considering it’s a recession,” said Mark Arkell, deputy racing manager at the stadium.
Taking time out of a schedule including organising races and time trials, and making sure that dogs are registered properly, he explained what he believes the continued appeal of the track is.
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“We have something for everyone really: different types of restaurants.
“You can have a drink, have a meal, we offer something a bit different.
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“In a way we are like a great big pub but we also have racing.”
Around a dozen full time staff are joined at the 4,200-capacity stadium by 100 race night staff working the turnstiles, bookmakers, restaurants, bars and security.
The stadium features races on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and twice on Saturday.
It draws its usual biggest crowd on Boxing Day when it pulls in around 2,000 punters.
Jim Reynolds is one of eight dog trainers affiliated to the stadium.
He said: “People who don’t know say to me that they think greyhound racing is in decline because tracks are closing.
“When I first came down to Romford in the 1970s we raced twice a week and eight races a night, now it’s practically 24/7.
“There’s been a huge amount of growth. On a Friday or Saturday night you get thousands of people.”
He added: “The management provide an absolutely wonderful service to trainers and the public. The atmosphere is fantastic.”
But what of the dogs themselves? How do they fare being raced around a track in front of a noisy crowd.
“The dogs are so well looked after you’d be amazed,” Mark said. “They’re always so happy with their kennel hands.
“You see them with their feet up sleeping before a race sometimes.”
The stadium’s own kennel, for dogs waiting to race, has features including a doggy foot bath, heating and air conditioning.
Jim, who runs Orchard Kennels in Aveley, Thurrock, explained how he approaches his role training racing dogs.
“It’s a job that people who don’t know are quite surprised about. They think we’re working with dogs but as I always say “you’re not just looking after a dog you’re looking after an athlete”.
“They have to be kept in comfortable running condition, you need to treat them well, look after them and keep them fit,” he said.
The kennels take greyhounds from around 15 months old and train them to be racing dogs.
Jim said: “I went to see a physio when I was training for the London Marathon and pulled a muscle and she charged me a lot for treatment with one of the exact same machines I’ve got in the kennels, I was gutted.”
Jim’s love of greyhounds has been with him from a young age. He began working at Romford in 1979, and has trained dogs at half a dozen other stadia.
But he said: “Romford is one of the best run tracks in the country, it’s absolutely fantastic.”