Secretary Defence and Urban Development Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa attended the Opening Ceremony of the renovated Colombo Racecourse on 20th October 2012. Hon Minister of Economic Development Hon Basil Rajapaksa graced the event as the chief guest.
Hon Minister, Basil Rajapaksa ceremonially declared open the mini stand and unveiled a plaque. Thereafter the Secretary Defence joined in to inspect the newly established facilities.
The old race course, once a land mark site in Colombo had been neglected for a long time. First officially opened for race horsing in 1893 it was considered the best in terms of design, facilities, and size in the East. In 1922 it became the first race course in the East to be fixed with a Totalisator, a tremendous technological achievement of that time.
Later on during World War II a temporary airfield was constructed at the Colombo Racecourse by the Royal Air Force (RAF). The Naval Air Squadron of the Royal Navy was also based at the Colombo racecourse. Thereafter Sri Lanka Air Force used the discarded racecourse grounds for landing transport helicopters and the Sri Lanka Army has used the racecourse buildings as a temporary garrison from time to time furthermore some of the buildings were used by University Of Colombo.
With time it lost its past glory with only state functions and ceremonies were held from time to time. Gradually the place was neglected and it became an eyesore in the Colombo’s changing skyline. This 27 acre prime land in Cinnamon Gardens in Colombo had been abandoned for nearly half a century.
This project is a brainchild of His Excellency the President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Under the Colombo modernization and beatification project the renovation the Race Course was taken up and under the perview of Secretary Defence and Urban Development Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa plans were draw up and the Urban Development Authority along with the Sri Lanka Army was entrusted with the work. Thus the modernization of the old Colonial relic became a reality. Army’s 6th Engineer Services Regiment and Central Engineering Consultancy Bureau completed the project while preserving the original architectural features. The racecourse was renovated under phase five of Independent Avenue development project. The renovated was carried out with a cost of 125 million rupees and no doubt it would be a centre tourist attraction of Colombo.
Completed with retaining its historic importance and architectural uniqueness, the new refurbished Race Course mini stand is comprised of a pavilion, restaurants, a stationary shop, dress boutiques, sports shops, and handy crafts and gifts shops.
The race track has been converted into an international rugby ground and the Grand stand have also been completed. This will be the main rugby venue with facilities conforming to international standards in the island. Minister Basil Rajapaksa also inspected the rugby ground and the renovating grand stand along with Secretary Defence.
A dazzling musical entertainment programme was also held last evening. The glamorous event mesmerized the large crowd which had thronged the venue to marvel and enjoy the new facilities at the old land mark location. A number of renowned Sri Lankan artists performed the show.
Distinguished guests including Hon Ministers, members of the Parliament, High Commissioners and Ambassadors, Government Officials, Director General of the Media Center for National Security, Chairperson of MOD SVU Mrs. Ioma Rajapaksa, Chief of Defence Staff, the three-forces Commanders, Inspector General of Police, Director of civil Defence Force, officials of Ministry of Defence and Urban Development, chairmen of leading companies, well-known artists, sports personalities, media personnel, Senior military officers and a large number of people were present at the occasion.