Kevin Boothby, managing director at Oxford Stadium, looks ahead to the launch of a new era

I will never forget the day we received the keys to Oxford Stadium when our regeneration project was launched in June of last year.

For a facility which had been closed for almost a decade, it remained in eerily good condition. Untouched pint glasses from that final night on December 29, 2012, sat on tables, race cards were scattered across the restaurant and hairdryers in our leisure facility still worked.

It was like stepping back in time. The scale of the project ahead quickly became apparent, and that’s without considering work outside on the terraces, in the kennels and on the greyhound and speedway tracks which resembled a jungle.

Tonight, the tireless work of our grounds staff, trades teams and those working behind the scenes will come to life when 2,000 people enter our turnstiles to mark the beginning of our new era.

When 7.30pm arrives and Oxford Cheetahs take to track, I am sure there will be a few teary eyes in the crowd. It will be a historic moment for not only Oxford Stadium, but the city too.

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Reflecting on the hours before news of our 10-year lease was confirmed, it was in my mind that speedway racing would return to Oxford Stadium in 2023. The response to our reopening was staggering, the demand to bring speedway back was overwhelming.

We simply had to find a way to register a team for the 2022 season – and we did it. Not only that, but we’ve put together a team packed with star names led by three-times world champion Jason Crump.

Our second team Oxford Chargers will also proudly represent the city in the National Development League, and plans are in place to set up an academy to support new and existing riders.

Oxford Mail: Oxford Cheetahs riders in action at the revamped Oxford Stadium. Picture: Steve EdmundsOxford Cheetahs riders in action at the revamped Oxford Stadium. Picture: Steve Edmunds

Speedway isn’t the only provision we’re reinstalling. It has always been my goal to bring Oxford Stadium back into the hands of local people and transform it into a true seven day a week multifunctional community hub.

The community arm of our regeneration will include the opening of four activity studios, a coffee shop and a fully equipped gym which can be hired by local tutors and clubs.

At the centre of the venue is the return of greyhound racing. My passion for greyhounds stretches back to my childhood, and I have many happy memories of my time trackside as an owner since the 1980s and a promoter for the past 18 years.

It’s important to stress that without the return of greyhound racing, Oxford Stadium’s reopening would not be financially viable. In partnership with our sister tracks Towcester, Henlow and Suffolk Downs, we cannot emphasise enough how seriously we take standards of care and welfare.

Read more: Oxford Chargers start new era with defeat at Berwick

Already, we’ve invested £250,000 into our kennel and veterinary facilities – which represents 25 per cent of the total investment we’ve made into restoring Oxford Stadium.

Greyhounds associated to Oxford Stadium will be subject to levels of care which go far beyond requirements for domestic pets in the UK.

We ask people to be careful when reading information from campaign groups, who have been proven to substantiate false claims that are damaging to our sport and reputation.

We have nothing to hide and will proactively engage with those opposed to or concerned about greyhound racing’s return to Oxford to showcase how we care for and love our dogs.

If you’re one of the lucky ones to have purchased a ticket for tonight’s launch, we can’t wait to welcome you trackside. And to those who missed out there will be plenty more occasions, as tonight is just the beginning of live sport back at Sandy Lane.

Enjoy the racing, enjoy our new era – and enjoy Oxford Stadium.

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