TRALEE racetrack at Ballybeggan has been sold off by shareholders, ending over 100 years of horse-racing at the track.
With the dust barely settled on its Rose of Tralee Festival meeting, shareholders have agreed a €40m sale of the racecourse at Ballybeggan Park to a consortium of investors.
The deal is linked to a series of developments in the area, including the possible transfer of Kerry GAA headquarters from Austin Stack Park to the Ballybeggan area.
There remains the remote possibility - in the event of planning or building delays - that the venue will be able to host some of its allocated 2008 dates, though this is unlikely, meaning that Listowel and Killarney will be the only two tracks in the county.
Local interests are dismayed at this turn of events but the numbers attending racing at the track in recent years have dropped alarmingly and some of directors, who initially opposed the sale, became disillusioned at the lack of support from the public.
Ballybeggan Race Company has been in existence since 1944, with the Rose of Tralee Festival meeting providing an annual six-day highlight.
The possible sell-off by Kerry GAA of their Austin Stack Park facility triggered fresh interest in the ailing Ballybeggan site last year, prompting company directors to put down a motion recommending shareholders that they sell Ballybeggan to a group of property developers.
A vote was taken Thursday night by the majority of its 50 shareholders (believed to be 80%) that the Ballybeggan Park be sold and rezoned for development.
The first recorded race meeting in the Tralee area was in 1767 and many different courses were used (at least 6) before racing moved permanently to Ballybeggan Park in 1898.
As well as horse racing, Ballybeggan Park also plays host to coursing meetings.
The popular Kingdom Cup, one of the highlights of the Christmas coursing calendar, is run there every year and the facility also played host for a couple of years to the Irish Cup, when it was in a transition period from its old site at Clounanna to the new Limerick racecourse in Patrickswell.
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