The Victoria Racing Club will open the doors to its new $130 million members' stand in a test event at Saturday's Makybe Diva Stakes day, unveiling a structure that it hopes will help the club and the sport in general broaden its supporter base and appeal to a new audience.
The state-of-the-art stand has been six years in the making and VRC officials are adamant it is the centrepiece of an ambitious plan to ensure Flemington is not just the leading racecourse in Australia but the world.
Chairman Amanda Elliot said on Monday the new stand – which will be officially opened on Derby Day in November when all floors, including the rooftop will be available for use – is just one part of an ambitious program the VRC has, which would see Flemington showcase night racing and host many more meetings than it does now.
It is standing room only now during the spring carnival but on other occasions Flemington, like all Melbourne tracks, doesn't attract huge crowds to its meetings.
But Elliot said racing had to be proactive, offer top-quality facilities and reach out to attract a new audience.
''It wasn't built for Cup week. It was built to make sure that on 24 times a year this stand is full, that people decide to come here for all sorts of reasons, not just a day at the races.
''We will eventually have many more race meetings here, we will have a set of lights [for night racing].
''You would love to see at least 40 race meetings here, with two tracks, a set of lights, absolutely you would, and a beautifully landscaped centre of this course which was available to the community, with the racing museum back here.
''There is a great big vision and I hope [it comes to fruition] sooner rather than later,'' Elliott said.
That would, of course, require current Flemington trainers to be relocated. She believes that would be possible if the industry bought a parcel of land near Oaklands Junction, where the Living Legends complex for retired champions is now located, and developed a training centre there.
That is for the future, however; her main concern now is the successful easing-in of the opulent new facility which, she said, has no equal anywhere in the world.
It's a big claim, given that Longchamp in Paris has just been refurbished and Royal Ascot has put in a new stand in recent years but Elliot has no doubts.
''I have travelled to quite a few racing jurisdictions and I could unequivocally say I have never been into a facility on a racecourse that is like this and addresses the wants and needs of such a broad demographic in such a beautiful way," Elliott said.
''It couldn't be more exciting. It's been a long journey. There's been lots of questions asked along the way but when people got to understand that this was more of a lifestyle choice [they saw the vision]. The more racing purist people would say what is going to happen to us but they are all converts now.
''Members understand that the view lines from this building are extraordinary. It's the realisation of a dream. The VRC has made modern and relevant decisions through its long history and I believe this is a pretty important one, not just for the VRC but for racing. ''
Michael Lynch, The Age's expert on soccer, has had extensive experience of high level journalism in the UK and Australia. Michael has covered the Socceroos through Asia, Europe and South America in their past three World Cup campaigns. He has also reported on Grands Prix and top class motor sport from Asia and Europe. He has won several national media awards for both sports and industry journalism.