New champagne bar adds fizz to Galway Races' iconic course
As the iconic home of the Galway Races, Ballybrit has seen it all over the years, through boom times and bust it proved a draw for tens of thousands of racing and fashion fans.
With booming ticket sales and a massive expansion of the famous champagne bar, this year's festival is sure to delight new and old racegoers alike.
Sales are already double what they were for this time last year with racecourse manager Michael Moloney putting the increase down in part to new sports and social packages being offered for the seven-day festival.
"We were on sale earlier than we ever were before and we have a new online ticketing platform which opened at the beginning of November. Sales for January have been double what they were last year and same for February," he said.
Corporate packages for Thursday and Friday of this year are also already sold out with the other days quickly following suit. But this year general public sales are also on the rise.
"That's the big thing for us and that's what we have been working towards," said Mr Moloney.
The added interest is due in part to a revamped online site and also growing interest in the racecourse's impressive expansion plans.
They have kicked off their new build with a brand new Tote betting hall which will also give an impressive new home to the much-loved champagne tent.
Work on the new building started the day after last year's festival ended and is due to be completed by mid-summer.
It will provide extra cover for 2,200 people, something to be welcomed with the temperamental Galway summers.
Mr Moloney said: "The old betting hall didn't have any cover except canopies either side, but we now have an extra 2,200 people under cover this year - that will be a big plus."
The upstairs venue is set to delight racegoers seeking some glitz and glamour.
The new glass-fronted first floor with extensive balcony will provide the new home for the champagne bar. Capacity will increase from 800 in the old tent to 1,100 with spectacular views of the racetrack.
"The champagne bar is still here, thankfully in a much better location and with a much better view, looking forward into the enclosure.It's a big bar with nicer views and opens up the whole eastern area of the racecourse around the parade ring," said Mr Moloney.
The new build is just the first in a impressive 20-year plan which reimagines much of the racecourse.
Describing it as "a very exciting time", Mr Moloney says he believes the upgrades will "transform the racecourse".
Another major change will be making Galway Plate Day an evening meet.
The first race will now kick off at 5.10pm with the iconic Galway Plate race, which has been run since 1869, now taking place at 7.20pm.
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