Of the 20 officially registered Greyhound Stadiums on the British mainland, technically the newest is to be found at Suffolk Downs. Previously known as Mildenhall Stadium and initially opened as a speedway track back in 1973, this track – which sits around halfway between Cambridge and Norwich – has experienced more than its fair share of ups and downs over the years.
Retaining its motorsports roots, the speedway and stock car racing arm of the site still operates under the name of Mildenhall Stadium. Returning to the greyhound side of things, whilst the new version of the track is yet to attract any top-tier events, the facilities provide everything you might expect from a night at the dogs, including two bars, the Race View Restaurant and a fish and chip shop.
What’s On Offer at Suffolk Downs?
Under the new licence, Suffolk Downs currently stages a regular programme of Tuesday and Friday evening fixtures right throughout the year, with plans for the addition of occasional Saturday evening meetings. Both the Tuesday and Friday cards generally consist of 10 races, with the first getting underway at around 8:10 pm, and the last concluding a little before 11 pm.
Speedway & Stock Car Racing
Aside from the greyhound action, the site also plays host to a range of motorsport disciplines, the most popular of which is speedway. Going under the traditional name of Mildenhall Stadium, the venue is the home of the National League’s Mildenhall Fen Tigers. Speedway events take place on Sunday afternoons from April through to October, with tickets priced at £14 for adults and £12 for students and OAPs, with all under 16s going free when accompanied by a paying adult.
One of the tightest tracks in the land, Suffolk Downs is often likened to Romford and Crayford, and in common with those two venues places great importance on breaking quickly from the traps.
- Circuit Length – 325m
- Run to First Bend -70m
- Sprint Distance – 220m
- Middle Distances – 388m (standard)
- Stayers Distance – 548m
- Marathon Distance – 716m
What Can You Expect?
General admission is priced at £6 for adults and £5 for OAPs and students, with all under 16s going free with a paying adult. Race Cards are provided free with an entry ticket. Standard entry grants access to trackside viewing, the Fish and Chip Shop, and the bar under the main grandstand. In addition to the standard entry option, special package or group deals may occasionally be available, with the best advice being to keep an eye on the track’s official Twitter page for the latest information.
Race View Restaurant
Racegoers looking to enjoy both the racing and a comfortable sit-down meal may wish to make a booking in the Race View Restaurant which – as the name suggests – provides excellent views of the action from a first-floor vantage point. With the official track website still under construction at the time of writing, those wishing to make a restaurant booking are advised to contact the track via one of the methods detailed below.
How to Get There
The stadium address is Mildenhall Stadium, Hayland Drove, West Row, Mildenhall, Suffolk, IP28 8QU. Around a 30-minute drive from Bury St Edmunds, the track is approached by both the A11 and the A1101. From the A11/A1101 roundabout, motorists should follow Green and Cook’s Drove onto Hayland Drove which leads to the track. Parking will be no issue as the track benefits from two large car parks.
The nearest train station to the track is that of Shippea Hill in Burnt Fen. Racegoers travelling by train still have a good deal of travelling to do though, with the station lying around a two-hour walk from the track. An alternative is to travel via Cambridge, taking the National Express bus service from Cambridge Parkside to Mildenhall town centre, before travelling on foot or via taxi for the last leg of the journey.
How to Get in Touch
- Tel: – 11638 711 777
- Email: – email@example.com
- Twitter: – @SuffolkDownDogs
What Else Do I Need to Know?
Lying in traditional hunting country, the site was well known as a coursing venue in its earliest years. Declining in popularity over time, the nail in the coffin for that pursuit came with the Hunting Act of 2004. Which was excellent news for the local hare community!
Situated close to the RAF Mildenhall site which has been based in the area since the 1930s, it was a little surprising that it wasn’t until 1971 that the land was first put to use as a sporting venue. Speedway came first, with trials taking place in 1971, before the first competitive fixtures of 1973. A resolutely low-key affair in those early days, facilities consisted of the track, two sheds to be used as changing rooms, safety barriers made from bales of hay, and little else.
1989 then saw the speedway operation run into its first real spell of adversity, ultimately shutting completely. That hiatus was however to prove very brief, with two gentlemen by the names of Dick Partridge and Terry Waters joining forces to not only bring back the speedway action but also introduce greyhound racing at the venue for the very first time.
Upgrades to the Greyhound Track
Upon reopening in 1990, the track was displaying the results of much-needed capital investment, including a new track, much-improved terracing and track lighting. Greyhound-specific facilities swiftly followed with the addition of 74 kennels, a paddock and a weighing room. Immediately granted a licence by the National Greyhound Racing Club, the Mildenhall Stadium staged its first greyhound meeting on the 21st of September 1991. Quickly gaining support from top trainer Linda James, the track looked all set to make its mark.
It has, however, been far from plain sailing for the Suffolk venue. Forced to close for two months barely one year after opening in 1992, the track has also undergone numerous managerial changes over the years – Dick Partridge, Terry Waters, Denis Diffley, Dave and Ron Coventry, and Richard Borthwick all having spells in the hot seat.
Noise Complaint from Local Neighbours
Having begun to tick along relatively smoothly, things began to unravel in the mid-2000s, triggered by a rather bizarre complaint. If peace and tranquillity are high on your list of priorities when choosing a new home, a spot next door to a busy speedway and greyhound facility probably isn’t the best option. However, that didn’t stop a local couple from purchasing a house within a stone’s throw of the track and promptly filing a noise complaint in 2006. Rumbling on for eight years, the couple surprisingly won their lawsuit in 2014. A ruling which seemed to threaten the future of the stadium.
All greyhound racing was ultimately suspended once again, with the site later being sold to Deane Wood in 2016, who managed to reintroduce a programme of just one meeting per week. Wood was, however, unable to solve the existing issues, and in 2018, it was announced that the track would close once more – seemingly for good.
Renamed Suffolk Downs
However, having been consigned to the greyhound racing history books, the track rose once more in 2020 when taken on by Towcester greyhound promoter, Kevin Boothby. Giving the site a much-needed facelift, Boothby renamed the greyhound operation, Suffolk Downs, with the first race at the “new” venue taking place on the 8th of February, 2022. Hopefully, this charming rural track enjoys a clear run of things this time around.