When the Bushy Park race track in Barbados reopens next year as a multi-purpose motor sport facility, the developers intend to make it “a hub of activity” year-round that will add another world-class product to the island’s vital sports-tourism offering.
In the first phase of the redevelopment, the original 1.3-kilometre layout is being extended to a 2.02kms circuit, designed to achieve Grade 3 certification from motor sport’s world governing body, the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), which will enable FIA-sanctioned events to be staged in the island.
Since its early days in the 1970s, Bushy Park has attracted interest from overseas competitors, and the upgrade and FIA certification will carry that appeal to a new level. Interviewed on island motor sport programme Race 1, Mark Maloney, who is head of the development team, said: “Sports tourism is something that Barbados has not quite tapped into to the extent that it can and motor sports tourism is a tremendous thing. Barbados as a whole has to diversify its offerings in everything that we do. We will have a facility where we can host sanctioned FIA events, that we can bring different series to Barbados, or teams can come to in the off season for testing.
“A lot of work has been done to get to where we can have a facility that can be developed to international standards and that all of the clubs in Barbados can benefit from at a world-class level. All of the different aspects of the sport will have a facility that meets international standards – that was very important.
“We could only work within the confines of the land, and we wanted to use as much of the old layout of the track as possible. To be able to create what is needed for each of the disciplines has been challenging, and trying to do it on a budget that makes sense for Barbados.
“The F1 track in Austin, Texas, they spent US $300 million on that. We’re going to have a facility that in our minds will probably be nicer in many ways, but done to a budget that meets what we can afford for this region. Having had President Jean Todt and the FIA work with us to allow us to do certain things within the parameters we can afford, and still get a sanctioned facility, is pretty tremendous.”
But race meetings are only a part of the plan for the facility’s future. While the groundworks, which will completely change the face of the 40-year-old track, continue apace, Bushy Park Circuit Inc, which will operate the facility, has been working on all other aspects of its future management.
Operations Director Mark Hamilton said: “The objective is to have a facility that lives and breathes six, seven days a week, not that is just a hive of activity for four race meetings a year. We want things going on to bring people to the facility, whether it’s a driving school, defensive driving classes, or tuition for young drivers. There may be opportunities for local engineers and technicians to came and ply their trade. A lot of work is going on behind the scenes to ensure the facility is a hub of activity, not just for the island, but regionally as well.”
Asked about the level of admission prices for spectators, Hamilton said: “It is early days yet, and we have a long way to go before we get to determining those types of numbers. However, it would be counterproductive for the facility if it put itself in the position where we were asking an unreasonable price, because we’d have empty seats. That’s not the objective of the facility, any facility, be it one for singing or racing. The objective is to fill the place.”
Maloney added: “It’s going to be an experience, in this amphitheatre-type environment. Take Bushy Park as it is now and enhance it, make it more beautiful, more user-friendly, with better quality everything. It is not going to be outside the ability of anyone to come here and enjoy themselves.”