Greyhound racing in Geelong has been conducted at three separate venues during its long and valued history.
The sport was first held in Geelong in 1936 under private ownership at Nelson Park, near the Ocean Child Hotel, opposite the Melbourne Road in North Geelong. Hugh Emmerson, who is honoured with an annual memorial race by the Geelong Greyhound Racing Club, supplied the pace makers for the track in the 1940s. The greyhound known as the pacemaker would set off after a live hare, which would disappear into a chute. The pacemaker would keep going around the track pursued by the full field. Emmerson would provide 10 pacemakers for the eight-race programs until drag lure racing was introduced in 1955. Fox terrier racing was also held at Nelson Park. Emmerson reared dogs for the big names of the sport including Harold Matthews, Buc Buchanan, Chumy Parks and George Schofield.
In 1956, the State Government set up the Greyhound Racing Control Board (GRCB) and permitted only non-proprietary tin-hare racing. That year, Emmerson was on a sub-committee which established a new track at Corio Oval, the former home of the Geelong Football Club in the city’s Eastern Park.
The first club president was Mr Fulton Knowles. In 1956 the Geelong Trotting Club also moved to Corio Oval and greyhound races were held inside the trotting circuit. The popularity of greyhound racing flourished at Corio Oval with about 25 bookmakers at each meeting servicing the needs of punters as Geelong grew in the post-war industrial boom. W.A. Horrie Capron was a long-serving president of the club during these flourishing years, which ran to the mid-1970s. A limit on the number of club members had been a source of discontent for a number of years until the GRCB directed the club to have open membership. Mr Ted Turner, who trained Australian Cup winner Swanston Lass, became club chairman and guided the club through a period of change in the late 70′s.
Plans were drawn up for a new Australian National Animal Health Laboratory to be built opposite Eastern Park. As the Laboratory was to deal with infectious diseases, it was decided that large congregations of animals would not be permitted near the laboratory and the greyhound and trotting clubs were told they would have to vacate Corio Oval. It was decided both clubs would move to a site by the Princes Highway in Corio.
The Trotting Club, under the guidance of President Ray Beckley had bought 23 hectares of land there in 1964 and the Racing Development Board bought a further 13 hectares adjoining the site a few years later. The trotting club moved to Beckley Park in September 1978 but the greyhound club, which had hesitated on the move, had its opening night at Beckley Park on Friday, March 7, 1980, enjoying state of the art facilities at a cost of $650,000. The greyhound circuit backed onto the trotting track and allowed independence.
Many outstanding greyhounds competed on opening night, but none greater than the topliner of the time Tempix, who proved almost unbeatable on the U-shaped 457m circuit. Greyhound racing at the new track thrived with an emphasis on marketing and promotions. High profile entertainers often performed to attract bigger crowds. Greyhound racing stalwarts who served as club chairman at Beckley Park were Steve McKee, Jack Howard, Brian Jones, Mark Pearson, Mrs Wendy Pearl, Max Scott, Barry Cole, Warren Hamilton, Dennis Lockwood and Maurie Blair.
A $250,000 upgrade of grandstand facilities was opened in 1997, providing fully sheltered and carpeted viewing over the track. Geelong has been the home track for many of Victoria’s leading trainers, including Graeme Bate, Allan Britton, Robert Britton, Tom Dailly and Tina Womann who have won some of Australia’s biggest races.
The Beckley Centre: New Era
In March 2008 the Geelong Greyhound Racing Club as it is now known, established its brand new kennel and administrative facility valued at $1.2 million. Furthermore the biggest development in the clubs history is currently underway with a complete re-development of grandstand, restaurant, bar and TAB facilities as well as a newly configured 2 track complex with both country and city racing configurations. This new $8 million dollar facility will be called ‘THE BECKLEY CENTRE’ and will validate Geelong as an epicentre for greyhound racing and the GGRC at the forefront of greyhound racing in Australia.