ABOUT 200 people gathered at the Camperdown racecourse at noon on Saturday to witness the historic re-opening of the 116 year-old grandstand after 14 years of restoration works.
Dignitaries from the Heritage Council, Heritage Victoria, Corangamite Shire, Camperdown Turf Club and local politicians joined with Camperdown Grandstand Restoration Committee for the momentous occasion.
The official ceremony kicked off with the Warrnambool Pipe Band marching in formation to the front of the grandstand to herald in the building’s new era.
Initially slated for demolition in 2004 due to structural deterioration, the formation of the Camperdown Grandstand Restoration Committee took on the mammoth task of saving the iconic facility.
Current chairman Peter Burke said the process had been long and arduous with a continual need for more funding.
“We never thought this day would come,” he told the gathered crowd.
“I have to pay special tribute to Mary Hay, who has been secretary of the group since the first day it was formed.
“She had show enourmous drive and passion in seeing the project through – today’s opening would not have happened without her.”
Mrs Hay said the grandstand restoration had occurred in stages as funding allowed, with many structural improvements.
“At times it was difficult for the public to see where all the money had gone,” she said.
“It’s a beautiful grandstand and now that it is officially re-opened, I hope the community is very proud of the work that has been down.”
Corangamite Shire Council mayor Neil Trotter said the grandstand had been brought back from the brink.
“It’s no mean fete to attract funding for a project of this scale,” he said.
“The grandstand is part of the fabric of Camperdown the Western District and a real testament to our racing history.”
Heritage Council representative Lindsay Merritt said the grandstand was a great source of pride.
“Sometimes we have to reflect on what’s important to us and what we want to preserve,” he said.
“The grandstand is 116 years old now and remarkably intact.
“It’s a great testament to the proud history of racing for Camperdown and surrounding district.”
Mr Lindsay and Mrs Hay officially unwrapped a ceremonial ribbon across the main staircase and announced the grandstand opened.
Racegoers then mounted the steps and marvelled at the views offered and the facilities historic features.