Venue Name: Ascot Racecourse
Venue Type: Historic Racecourse
Venue Contact Name: Kelly Mole, Head of Conference & Events
Venue Website: https://www.ascot.co.uk/business-events#node-6673
Ascot Racecourse. When you say its name you immediately envisage women in fantastic hats, men in tailcoats, and the roar of the crowd as the riders surge by the iconic Royal Box. What may surprise you is that this world-famous sporting venue only hosts 26 days of actual racing every year. Once you’ve factored in a 10-day closure over the Christmas period, that still leaves well over 300 days a year where no horse will be seen. So what happens?
What you may also be surprised about is that Ascot Racecourse has over 300 event spaces spread across its grandstand and surrounding buildings. Factoring the actual grounds as well, this makes the site a formidable option for event organisers seeking the glamour of a sporting venue that sits just a stones throw from London.
The development of the events side of the operation has seen swift growth in the last four years. Head of Conferencing & Events Kelly Mole has overseen an expansion in her team from two to seven people, a direct reflection of the calculated change of thinking that was implemented to increase the amount of events business conducted in the venue.
“In addition to the racing, it became evident that there was a huge opportunity here on site to develop the Conference & Events side of the business which in turn would support the growth and future development of specific areas of the racecourse”
The venue contains traditional event spaces – including a 1,000 capacity theatre-style room – as well as several areas that creative organisers will find exciting, some with the possibility of merging indoors and outdoors together.
A 4,000m2 exhibition space is found within the 27m high atrium in the Grandstand Galleria, which provides a flexible area for purpose-built product displays that is complimented with superb natural lighting and direct vehicle access and loading bays.
“An ongoing programme of improvement in 2014 saw a brand new event space created by removing 14 of Ascot’s private boxes. The new On 5 Suite has been decorated and furnished in the style of a high-end restaurant.”
Catering for the entire site is delivered by Sodexo, with the supplier having been contracted to Ascot for the last 15 years. However, when it comes to event contractors there is currently no preferred supplier list in place.
“We are very aware that event organisers often have a trusted portfolio of their own suppliers that they like to use when delivering events”, said Kelly. “We want clients to be able to use our spaces in the best possible way, so we are very happy for them to bring their own suppliers with them. That said, we have a list of many different suppliers and services that we can recommend, so we are able to provide detailed support for organisers regardless of their experience.”
Major corporate clients, cycling events for 2,500 riders, and large-scale Asian weddings are all now commonplace at the Racecourse, which also has on-site parking for 10,000 cars.
“We’re very conscious that the racecourse carries with it a reputation and an expectation”, said Kelly. “We have therefore developed our events team carefully so that they can specifically handle every aspect of a client’s event from beginning to end. The experience we now have is also crucial to the way we will develop our events further. We have hosted fashion shows, trade exhibitions, major conferences, Asian weddings, Christmas parties, and everything in between, giving us a vast portfolio of reference. We even had the producers of Skyfall use Ascot as a filming location, with the main stand used internally and externally as a stand-in for Shanghai International Airport!”