The return of greyhound racing will be a boost to punters who enjoyed the sport in Oxford for more than 70 years.

Crowds would gather at Oxford Stadium at Cowley several evenings a week, hoping that their ‘dog’ would bring them a few pounds – or even a fortune – from the bookies.

Now, entrepreneur Kevin Boothby, who has secured a 10-year lease on the stadium, hopes racing will resume next March after a 10-year gap.

Oxford Mail:

The stadium was built in 1938 on the site of a ‘flapping’ (non-regulated) track, where owners could race their greyhounds round an oval on selected days.

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Lord Denham officially opened the stadium on the first race night on March 31, 1939.

The first race was won by Hunting Snipe, the 2-1 favourite.

Oxford Mail:

The stadium closed for most of the Second World War, but occasionally opened for Saturday afternoon racing.

One of the wartime attractions was ‘The Gunner’, an Irish Grand National winner, bought by the stadium boss Leslie Calcutt.

It won 11 successive races, drawing in large crowds.

Post-war progress was threatened with Calcutt’s sudden death in 1952, aged just 49, but success continued when Bristol Stadium, of which he had been director, took over.

The stadium continued to flourish in the 1960s, but there was more unease when the company offered to sell the site in 1975 to Oxford City Council for £235,000 for housing.

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An SOS (Save our Stadium) group was formed and 27,000 people signed a petition against the plan.

Michael Heseltine, MP for South Oxfordshire, called a public meeting to try to attract a buyer.

Eventually, the stadium was saved when Northern Sports bought it for £250,000. The company invested £1.5m in the 1980s on a grandstand restaurant and sports centre, including squash courts, a snooker club, gymnasium and sauna, attracting more and more people.

Oxford Cheetahs’ speedway team, which also competed at the stadium, added to the success as three-times British champions in 1985, 1986 and 1989.

Oxford Mail:

However, in 1995, Northern Sports’ parent company called in the receivers.

The stadium was bought by Donald Joyce, a former SOS member, who sold it in 1999 to the Greyhound Racing Association.

After further upheaval, plans for housing were revived, but the council said it wanted to keep the site for leisure.

Greyhound racing continued until December 29, 2012 when the stadium finally closed.

A capacity crowd watched as Moorstown Mystiq won the final race.

Now, with housing plans again buried, the stadium could reopen next spring.

Speedway, go-karting and other sports could follow.

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Other activities that were held at the stadium before it closed included a motorcyle training school, a dance group and gym.

It is not yet known whether all of these activities and businesses will return.

Oxford City Council has said that it is hopeful that a ‘high quality’ venue will be delivered.

Oxford Mail:

Businessman Mr Boothby currently runs two greyhound tracks at Towcester and Henlow.