CROWDS will be nearly halved and all but major race days will be farmed out to other tracks as the $150 million redevelopment of the Randwick racecourse kicks off this month.
Brookfield Multiplex, the builder of Stadium Australia at Homebush and Wembley Stadium in London, has won the contract to rebuild the spectator precinct at Royal Randwick for the Australian Turf Club.
The racing minister, George Souris, and the club chairman, John Cornish, heralded the deal at the contract signing yesterday, with Mr Souris saying the upgrading of the historic course ''will bring Randwick to the forefront of racing venues in the world''.
Mr Cornish added the racecourse was looking ''tired, run-down and antiquated'', and that this project was the start of a rejuvenation aimed at ''winning back the hearts of a committed but long-suffering racing community''.
Demolition of the 95-year-old Tea House pavilion and other work will begin in January, due to be finished in time for the 2013 Autumn Carnival.
The project is being funded by Tabcorp's $150 million purchase of Racing NSW's interest in Trackside, a virtual racing game that it operates at its TAB outlets.
The redevelopment will double the capacity of the existing grandstands, build a new owners' and trainers' building, as well as a new 1000-seat ballroom for functions, which will be converted to corporate suites on race days.
A new Theatre of the Horse parade ring will allow 4500 people to view horses before and after races, with a tunnel providing horse and rider access to the course. A proposed 180-room hotel is still in the planning stages.
The club will keep major events such as the Sydney Carnival in April at Randwick, but at least 30 out of 40 race days next year will shift to Warwick Farm, Rosehill Gardens and Canterbury Park, which are now part of the same organisation following last year's merger of the Australian Jockey Club and the Sydney Turf Club into the ATC.
Crowd capacity at Randwick will be cut from more than 20,000 to around 12,000 for events held during the construction.
But the club's plans don't end there. On Monday it won Liverpool Council's approval for the first stage of its $285 million, five-year plan at Warwick Farm, which is to be funded by selling parcels of racecourse land for retail and light industry. The club is also pushing to build a hotel and club at Warwick Farm.
A $24 million grant from NSW is being invested in the Rosehill track, with the ATC installing the southern hemisphere's largest racing screen in time for Golden Slipper day in April.
Mr Cornish said that the investments were necessary because the young and growing populations around Warwick Farm and Rosehill were the future of the industry.