15 March 2015

Going to the dogs

The old Stadium is looking tired and shabby, waiting for the rest of the new development to get a bit closer to completion I suppose, before it's worth doing any restoration. It was lit up the other day, perhaps a test run to see how much of the neon lighting still works - because the whole point of the iconic frontage is the way it used to light up at dusk. The 1933 Totaliser Building is crude 30s construction, painted cement render on cheap bricks, with nothing much in the way of interesting detail, just a plain backdrop for the well-known neon sign, the leaping greyhound and the Art Deco lettering. You just have to hope the developers do keep it lit up. The Stadium was listed Grade II, otherwise no doubt the whole thing would have been value engineered out, like the BMX track and climbing wall etc. I'm pleased to see this central feature kept, but not really convinced the car park has any real architectural value on its own, without the rest of the stadium buildings. At least its good to see the hideous metal railings have gone. They must have been added in the 1970s, when adding red tubular metal features to buildings seemed like a good idea.
I went there once, shortly before it closed, had a great evening and won forty quid. Not because I know the first thing about dog racing, just by following what a friend of a friend was betting on. It was quite unique, the combination of the live races and associated betting on the one hand, and on the other the family-friendly night out - junk food and beer, what more could you want? Sophisticated it was not, but adults and children alike were happy. I was sorry to discover my first visit was also to be my last.
Londonist published an article about the 2011 alternative proposals which tried but failed to save the site for dog racing.