2024 is set to be a crucial year in deciding the future of Sandown, with the Melbourne Racing Club confirming the formal pathway for a rezoning of the suburban racecourse is set to commence early in the New Year.

The Melbourne Racing Club sent out a communication to members just before Christmas, confirming that it had been advised by the state government that the Planning Scheme Amendment (PSA) process for Sandown will commence in the New Year. 

That process, which will be overseen by the Minister for Planning, Sonya Kilkenny, is expected to take 12 months to complete, giving the MRC the information it needs to take the vote over the future of Sandown to members.

“The Club welcomes the decision to progress the PSA for Sandown, and we look forward to working with MRC members, industry participants and the Greater Dandenong Community throughout the consultation phase,” the message to members read.  

“Consultation on Sandown remains a priority for the Club and members will continue to be taken through every step of this process. Further forums will be available to members in the New Year and we will consistently provide updates as the process unfolds.”

The club confirmed that a full member vote would be required, through a general meeting, before any decision on whether to sell or develop Sandown would be made.

The future of the racecourse, located on 112 hectares of prime real estate in south-eastern Melbourne, 25 kilometres from the city, has been at the centre of a public debate since 2019 when the Melbourne Racing Club announced it would pursue a PSA to assess the options for the site.

Among the options which could be considered when the PSA process is finally concluded is the closure of the racecourse, with the establishment of a housing development of 7500 homes on the site. The value of that project has been reported to be as much as $3.5 billion.

However, there has been strong opposition to Sandown’s possible closure from within the Victorian racing community, with three candidates opposed to the closure elected to the MRC board in 2022. This was off the back of considerable grass roots support for Sandown’s retention from within the Victorian thoroughbred industry.

At the 2023 MRC board elections, the Save Sandown lobby put forward three further candidates, but just one, Caitrin Kelly, was elected to the board, replacing one of the departing pro-Sandown candidates from the 2022 election.

Matt Cain, who supports the club’s push for rezoning, retained his chairmanship at that election, but Nick Hassett, who is opposed to the closure and sale of Sandown, remains vice-chairman.

Cain recently confirmed that the MRC had commissioned an independent report to assess what a partial sale of Sandown, allowing continuation of racing, would look like.

He has also said in the past that the MRC’s funding for the masterplan to redevelop Caulfield racecourse, including a new grandstand and possible night racing, may be contingent on proceeds from the full or partial sale of Sandown.

The cash or the track? A $5-billion deal too good for the ATC to ignore
A ‘once-in-a-century’ opportunity to inject nearly $5 billion of funds into the future of the racing industry proved irresistible to the Australian Turf Club, even though it means the closure of Rosehill racecourse after 150 years.

The future of Sandown has been brought back into focus by the shock announcement from the Australian Turf Club and the New South Wales state government earlier this month that they intend to close Rosehill racecourse in western Sydney by 2029 and redevelop it in a deal which could be worth $5 billion to the ATC.

The ATC and the government have signed a memorandum of understanding with confirmation of full details of the plans expected by the end of 2024.