Racecourses were historically established as sporting venues for the aristocracy to race their horses against one another, known as the 'Sport of Kings', and attracted huge crowds.
In the 1950s, post-war Britain was hungry for entertainment and racecourses offered the only source for a legal bet. Crowds in excess of 15,000 were commonplace at Musselburgh Racecourse and at that time racecourses did not require to be commercially operated.
In 1963, the Government made betting shops legal whilst at the same time competition for leisure time began to increase. Attendances went into rapid decline and some racecourses went bankrupt, including Lanark and Bogside in Scotland.
In the 1980s, Musselburgh Racecourse was also at risk, however in 1987 racecourses received a much needed financial boost when new technology enabled them to sell pictures of races to the betting shops - without this revenue Musselburgh Racecourse would not be here today.
Going into the 1990s, Musselburgh Racecourse was still losing money and the future looked desperate. In 1991, East Lothian Council (ELC) took over management of the Racecourse from the Lothian Racing Syndicate Limited (LRS) and remarkably achieved breakeven in one year - once again Musselburgh Racecourse had a future.
In 1994, Provost Pat O'Brien was instrumental in setting up the Musselburgh Joint Racing Committee (MJRC) to operate Musselburgh Racecourse. The MJRC is a partnership, which still exists today, between the LRS and ELC.
Since 1999, attendances have rocketed from 38,000 to over 70,000 per annum with sponsorship, corporate hospitality and prize money more than doubled. Today Musselburgh Racecourse is a thriving business and one of the top leisure and sporting venues in Edinburgh and the Lothians.
In recent years, significant developments have been undertaken at Musselburgh Racecourse with more than £7.5 million invested into the facilities including a prestigious new hospitality stand (The Queen's Stand), refurbishment of the Edwardian Grandstand and all public areas, the building of the Links Pavilion housing many essential customer facilities, a new Weighing Room and entrance complexes, a new Parade Ring, new stables and ground staff facilities and extensive landscaping plus improvements to the track itself.
The track improvements have involved integrating a strip of fibresand into the jumps turf track around the winning post bend. This £100,000 investment improves the surface around the bend and maintains a consistent racing surface to ensure the welfare of all horses, in a previously difficult area, throughout the jumps season.
Musselburgh Racecourse has recently invested £140,000 in an Owners and Trainers Marquee and this exclusive facility provides privacy and comfort for racehorse owners and their trainers, where they can discuss horses, relax with refreshments or celebrate a win.
In 2012, Musselburgh Racecourse invested in innovations around the racecourse to enhance the visitor experience which included £10,000 investment in directional and informative signage, the upgrading of toilets and redesigning of the race programme to become more user friendly and informative for novice race-goers and seasonal racegoers. Development of our picnic lawn has provided an area on family racedays for a 'kids zone' in the form of a children's party paddock or marquee.
Continuous improvements are being made to utilise Musselburgh's Racecourse TV to provide comprehensive information to customers about the course, our suppliers and our commitments to great customer service.
All profits are continuously re-invested in Racecourse improvements and prize money.
A measure of our success is the annual increase in visitor numbers and the quality and calibre of the racing field that the Racecourse attracts. In addition, we actively seek regular and ongoing feedback from stakeholders and strive to improve and deliver the 'Musselburgh Experience'.
Musselburgh Racecourse are delighted to have been awarded the 'Operational Excellence' award at the Racecourse Association Awards in November 2014. An accolade which encompasses the recent £250,000 investment in renovation work within the permanent facilities and grounds as well as a great measure of the commitment and desire to continuously improve all that there is to offer in Scotland's 5* VisitScotland Racecourse.