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Aerial view of the troubled Mijas Hipódromo racecourse. SUR
Mijas racecourse, from jewel in the crown of sports tourism to looking like a 'war zone'
Mijas

Mijas racecourse, from jewel in the crown of sports tourism to looking like a 'war zone'

After a decade with hardly any activity, the town hall regained ownership of the Hipódromo last year and faces investing millions of euros after damage by vandals and looters

Lorena Cádiz

Friday, 12 April 2024, 16:05

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The Mijas Hipódromo, the racecourse inaugurated in 1999, was intended to become the jewel in the crown of sports tourism in the area. This was a dream, however, that very quickly diminished after continuous problems at the 350,000-square-metre facility. Following years of uncertainty about the racecourse's future, the town hall has still not decided what to do with it, as it claims it would need a financial investment of 3.5 million euros to restore it to its former use.

The race nights had attracted up to 7,000 people and the course included numerous facilities for jockeys, trainers and veterinary treatment, along with bars and restaurants, however the company that originally managed the concession eventually went into bankruptcy.

When these municipally owned facilities were launched, the council decided to create a company called Recursos Turísticos de Mijas to manage it. However, the problems arose when the Real Federación Hípica de Madrid stopped organising the races, a move which prompted the owners of horses to go to other racetracks where more substantial prizes were offered.

Attempts were made to reorient the facilities towards show jumping, but the company that took over the concession eventually left, and it remains embroiled in a legal dispute with the council.

This resulted in a decline of people visiting the facility, followed by the closure of many of the businesses, and by 2014, it was virtually nonfunctional. Over the last ten years, the racecourse has been immersed in a bureaucratic and legal quagmire.

It all stems from when these facilities, owned by the town hall, were set up, and the town council decided to create a company, known as Mijas Recursos Turísticos to manage them. There was no issue with this arrangement until the decision was made to liquidate the company and return the land to the council, which is when the legal hurdles began. In 2018, Mijas Recursos Turísticos entered into bankruptcy, owing nearly four million euros to private and public entities including the town hall. Consequently, the racecourse came under the control of the insolvency administrator.

Last year, the council announced that it had finally recovered 100 per cent ownership of the land and that the bankruptcy proceedings had come to an end, paving the way for the settlement of all recognised debts.

Although the bureaucratic problems have come to an end, it has still not been decided what to do with the space. During the last municipal elections, all parties announced different projects to relaunch it in line with maintaining it as a sports facility, since this is the use that the land must be used for in accordance with the general urban plan for the municipality (PGOU).

In the budgets that the current council (PP, Vox and Por mi Pueblo) has just approved, there were no amounts set aside for the racecourse, something that was the subject of much criticism in the last full council meeting. According to estimates from the current administration, 3.5 million euros is needed, which is the cost of the damage suffered over the years at the facilities. "The racecourse has been ransacked. For many years, there has been no surveillance and thieves have entered and taken everything they could, including windows, cable conduits, floors...," stated the councillor for finance, Mario Bravo.

Uncertain future

Bravo explained that the council wants to recover this space, but it is still not clear whether it will continue to be a racecourse or whether it will be transformed into another type of sports facility, although he said it is still in the process of finalising some legal issues.

For now, the town hall is still involved in resolving some remaining legal issues related to this space.

"Three premises were sold to three private individuals, who have them registered in their names, and to reclaim them, we have to resort to the expropriation process," detailed the councillor.

Once progress is made on that front, he even mentioned the possibility of launching a competition for ideas to decide the best future for this space, "as long as the sports use is respected at 50%, as stipulated by the PGOU."

Gyms, swimming pools, a velodrome, athlete residences or a new racecourse... all of these options are on the table, but the timeline for them coming to life is still uncertain.

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