Drumbo Park Greyhound Stadium

Drumbo Park track
Dean Molyneaux / geograph.ie

Also known as New Grosvenor Stadium, Drumbo Park is a multi-purpose venue that can be found in the Ballyskeath area of County Down in Northern Ireland. Though it is technically one stadium, it is used for two different sports. New Grosvenor Stadium is where football takes place, whilst Drumbo Park is what is used for the greyhound racing. The track actually runs around the pitch, so it would be theoretically possible for both sports to take place at the same time, though, of course, in practice this would be almost impossible to achieve.

The capacity of the stadium differs depending on the sport that you’re there to watch. If you’re hoping to catch sight of some football, around 7,000 people can be in attendance, of which 540 can be seated. When it comes to greyhound racing, that drops to 1,000, with 250 of them being seated. Originally built as a trotting venue, racing takes place at the venue on some Fridays and Saturdays, with trials taking place on Monday. Unofficial trials also take place on a Tuesday. As well as being a place to watch football and greyhound racing, you can also host conferences and events at the stadium.

The Track & Facilities

Drumbo Park grandstand
Dean Molyneaux / geograph.ie

It is fair to say that the experience that you’ll enjoy at Drumbo Park is different to one you’ll have at most other greyhound racing courses. In some ways, it is much the same, with the grandstand promising a combination of the ability to be outside close to the track or inside behind glass and more warm and comfortable. The difference is that inside the track is a football pitch, whilst on the other side you’ll be able to see stands in which football supporters can sit or stand in order to watch the match take place in front of them.

The track is a sand one, whilst inside the stand you’ll discover a 350-seat state-of-the-art restaurant. There are four stands at the location of Drumbo Park, with three of them belonging to the football club and one being where greyhound punters will locate themselves. The football stadium closes at 6.30pm on days of races, with the greyhound stadium opening immediately afterwards. Since July 2019, the track has been operated by Run With Passion Limited, who instigated new working practices. As you can imagine, the greyhound stand is not open to football fans during matches, just as the football stands aren’t open when greyhound racing is taking place.

At the time of writing, the following distances are run at the track:

  • 335 Yards
  • 525 Yards
  • 550 Yards
  • 575 Yards
  • 835 Yards

Major Races & Events

As we’ll explain in more detail shortly, the track has suffered a turbulent past. As a result, some of the events have either moved away from the stadium over the years or else been discontinued altogether. One such example is the Northern Irish Derby, which took place at Drumbo Park between 2011 and 2014 and promised a prize of £25,000. Run over 550 yards, it was the richest event ever to be held in Northern Ireland and was sponsored by Toals Bookmakers. No dog, breeder or trainer won the event more than once before it was discontinued after the 2014 running.

In the News

Drumbo Park hasn’t been in the news much in recent times, which is no bad thing for the greyhound racing track. If you go back to 2019, for example, then you’ll see that it was appearing in news stories on a fairly regular basis. Initially, this was because the stadium closed with immediate effect in January of that year, causing the loss of 14 permanent jobs and 30 part-time ones. Then, towards the end of the year, it re-opened after a former employee bought it out of administration and re-started racing, as well as re-branding it as a conferencing and events venue.

About Drumbo Park Greyhound Stadium

Drumbo Park
gato-gato-gato / Flickr.com

Built as a trotting venue in the village of Ballyskeagh, it was acquired by Distillery Football Club in 1980. The team’s previous home had been damaged by fire after it was bombed in 1971, being demolished a year later in order to make way for a motorway link through the city of Belfast. The club named the venue New Grosvenor Park in honour of its previous stadium. It operated solely as the home of the football club for a few years, then in the middle of the 1980s a decision was taken to convert it in order to accommodate a greyhound racing track.

Ballyskeagh Greyhound Track operated for more than 20 years before it was re-branded in 2009, becoming Drumbo Park. From the outset of its opening, the venue was duel-purpose, with the football and the greyhound racing taking place as separate entities. The main stand for the football is the Morton McKnight Stand, which was built after Lisburn Distillery bought the location in 1980. It has room to welcome 527 spectators, including 25 seats in the directors box. There is also room for commentators to the rear of the stand.

The Greyhound Track

The very notion of a greyhound racing track in Northern Ireland is an unusual one. The sport doesn’t come under the jurisdiction of the Greyhound Board of Great Britain, instead being overseen by the Irish Greyhound Board. Ballyskeagh was the second circuit alongside Donmore Stadium when it opened, but when Donmore closed in 1996 it was the only greyhound venue in the country. It offered races over 375 yards, 525 yards, 550 yards, 575 yards, 600 yards & 880 yards, but struggled to stay open do to a lack of funding from the Irish Greyhound Board.

As a result, it closed its doors, seemingly permanently, on the 24th of October, 2005, having struggled financially for many years before then. It re-opened in 2010, now boasting the name of Drumbo Park and offering state-of-the-art facilities. A 350-seat restaurant was located inside the grandstand, with racing taking place every Friday and Saturday. In 2011, the Northern Irish Derby was introduced, lasting until 2014 and offering a prize pool of £25,000. When the prize money was cut two years later, the event lost some status and was stopped altogether after just four runnings.

A New Era

In January of 2019, John McCollum, Michael McAdam and Tommy Anderson, then-directors of Lisburn Distillery, said that the track had had some difficulty making a trading at a gain and, as a result, was closed. In July of 2019, it was re-opened under the management of Run With Passion Limited, who decided to introduce some new working practices. These included having pre-race veterinary checks of all runners before any racing is allowed to take place. The Drumbo Park Stand is operated as a separate entity to the football ground, with Drumbo Park Greyhound Racing taking on the responsibility.

The Drumbo Park Stand was built in 2008, meaning that it is the newest part of the overall stadium. It was purpose-built for greyhound racing, so large glass windows allow for a good view of the track. An a la carte restaurant has enough room for 250 racegoers, whilst Tote operators can take bets off punters wishing to try their luck. The paddock in front of the track has room for 750 people, with bookmakers operating booths on the side of the track to take bets off those that don’t want to be involved with the Tote for some reason.

Records at Drumbo Park

The following are the track records for the distances run at Drumbo Park at the time of writing. Obviously these can change at any moment, not least of all because race organisers can decide to remove certain distances from the calendar whenever they feel like.

Distance Record Time Date Set
335 Yards 17.52 Seconds 29th August 2020
525 Yards 27.88 Seconds 23rd October 2010
550 Yards 29.45 Seconds 5th October 2013
575 Yards 30.90 Seconds 25th June 2011
835 Yards 46.43 Seconds 25th June 2011