Project leader Allen Trump
EXETER Falcons are investigating the possibility of building Britain's first permanent indoor speedway track.
The club's management are looking at the radical new approach as they battle to bring speedway back to the city for the first time since 2005.
The exciting new facility would enable racing to take place all year round, whatever the weather conditions, and Falcons' officials are now searching for a suitable location that would fit within their budget. They have turned to such an unusual idea after failing so far in their attempts to find a new outdoor track which would see the Falcons fly again after being forced to leave their previous home at the County Ground.
Last week, they admitted defeat in their attempts to build a circuit at Haldon Racecourse, despite having planning permission for the scheme, after project leader Allen Trump and the racecourse owners, the Jockey Club, failed to reach agreement over the terms of the lease.
The management of the Falcons is in the hands of ManorDelta Ltd, the company which ran speedway in Exeter for 20 years under the late promoter Colin Hill.
ManorDelta board member Tony Lethbridge, the Falcons' former press officer and team manager, said that building a conventional stadium in this day and age was becoming increasingly tough, and that erecting an indoor track could save the day, not just for Exeter but for several other teams around the country who have lost their stadia in recent years.
"It is becoming increasingly difficult to develop any kind of motorsport venue due to modern environment and planning issues," said Lethbridge.
"Finding a replacement for the old County Ground has been very hard work, and noise, even though speedway has very strict rules governing it, has always been a major issue.
"Therefore, if we were to move indoors, either by converting an existing warehouse, farm building or even by building our own steel shell, many of the problems could be overcome."
He added: "Indoor speedway meetings are an accepted part of the sport, with the British Grand Prix at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium the major event on the world calendar, while the long-running annual ice meeting at Telford ice rink and the Christmas meeting at the Brighton Centre have always worked well.
"I don't think we can set our sights as high as Cardiff but I believe, by going indoors, we would overcome the environmental problems we now face in finding an outdoor venue.
"From a speedway point of view, rain-offs would be a thing of the past, while the track could be used all year round."
The County Ground was the biggest track in the country at 396 metres, but Lethbridge explained that an indoor circuit would have to be much smaller.
"Obviously we could not recreate the County Ground track, but Speedway Control Board manager Graham Reeve supports the idea and would be happy with a track size of between 200 to 220 metres. Plymouth's speedway track currently measures 216 metres," said Lethbridge.
"I have also spoken to a recognised track expert with indoor know-how, who would be prepared to build and maintain the track. The cost of the building is likely to be our biggest problem, but I am confident that something can be achieved within the city of Exeter."