For over 40 years, Belle Vue Stadium stood proudly as the home of greyhound racing in Greater Manchester – ever since the Albion Greyhound Racecourse in Salford was forced to close in 1976.
But sadly, in what has been a difficult year for many industries, Belle Vue has had to follow suit and shut its doors.
A statement from the Arena Racing Company said: “As a stadium that relies heavily on attendance, catering and hospitality, the national lockdown has had a particularly negative effect on Belle Vue, with racing behind closed doors simply unable to sustain the business.
“The significant uncertainty over the return of crowds to live sporting venues means that, despite exploring every avenue, there is no choice but to confirm closure.”
Punters can no longer expect to see the stadium and its races listed on bet exchange sites – and for those in the North West, there is nowhere to go to see the dogs, with White City and Bolton also no longer in existence for some time. It was the first purpose-built dog track in the country – and was considered the biggest, too.
A long history
Belle Vue opened in 1926 when more than 1,700 people were in attendance at the first meeting. That day, six races took place, each featuring seven dogs. A greyhound called Mistley won the opening race – and 50 years later, a stand was named after the historic winner.
The following year, the stadium began to attract many more fans – as many as 70,000 a week. That same time, the Northern Flat was introduced as the first major event – and Belle Vue went on to host many more important races and competitions over the years. Post-war, the stadium hosted the Greyhound Derby for the first time in 1964. Before also becoming home to the classic race, Cesarewitch.
The Scurry Gold Cup was hosted at Belle Vue for a decade between 2009 and 2019, having been raced at various stadia over the years. Winner of last year’s Trainers Championship, Angela Gorton was also successful at Belle Vue, with Droopys Reel winning the Gold Cup, over a distance of 260m. It has since been moved to Harlow.
The Laurels is an original classic competition, that too has been raced in numerous stadia. It moved to Belle Vue in 1998 and remained there until 2017 when it was then transferred to Newcastle. The Laurels has been raced at various distances – from as short as 460m, up to 480m, as it raced today. Having first been run in 1930, it is one of the earliest competitions, and thus, is very prestigious.
The Oaks was originally raced in 1927 at White City – and it wasn’t until 1939 that it gained classic status, becoming the seventh classic. It was moved to Belle Vue in 2013, but sadly the Manchester stadium only held five editions of the race, before it was moved to Swindon, following the closure of Towcester Racecourse. To this day, it’s an iconic race, only open to bitches.
At the end of last year, it was announced that the land would be demolished and a housing estate would be built on the site. It would be a sorry end for years of history and what is such a big part of the community. However, it’s believed that campaigners are battling to save Belle Vue. Chair of the Friends of Belle Vue Stadium, Simon Walmsley told the Manchester Evening News: “Whilst it is very early days in the process, it is encouraging to know that there is keen interest in seeing the stadium continue which is what we’ve worked hard to protect”.
He continued: “This is one of the best-situated tracks in the country in terms of bringing in crowds – we were still very busy pre-lockdown as the crowds were good.”