Colombo Racecourse

Presently, an international rugby stadium that hosts all of the Sri Lankan Rugby Union side’s home fixtures, the Colombo Racecourse is a historic site in the heart of Colombo that has undergone many changes through time. First a horse racing complex, then transformed into a temporary airstrip during the Second World War and finally into a Rugby Union stadium, coupled with an array of upscale shops, bars, pubs, cafes and fast food chains, the Colombo Racecourse is truly a colonial gem that has aged well in the face of the 21st Century, as it is frequented by many an individual to just get away from the hustle and bustle of the urban jungle. Coupled with the ability to witness some high-flying rugby action, the complex is a unique monument situated in Colombo 7.

Best Known For

  • The Colombo Racecourse is famed for being a major social spot to just hang out with your mates, as the complex is home to a great many cafes, fast food chains, restaurants, bars and pubs. Such notable establishments being KFC, Tsing Tao and the Good Market to name but 3 prominent ones.
  • Possessing colossal grandstands and able to seat around 40,000 spectators, the Colombo Racecourse is known for producing some exhilarating rugby action and even occasional football action, making many a sports enthusiast flock the stadium and witness the action unfold.

Interesting Facts

  • The Colombo Racecourse was officially opened in 1893 and was solely used for harness racing (horse racing), thus moving the centre of horse racing to Colombo 7, from the Colpetty Race Course, now known as the Galle Face Green.
  • The race course in Colombo was subsequently fitted with an automated betting system in 1922, a ‘totalisator’, believed to be the first one fitted in Asia.
  • However, in the wake of the Second World War, the Colombo Racecourse underwent a major change, as it was transformed into an airfield consisting of Hawker Hurricane Fighters and Bristol Blenheim Bombers from the No. 258 Squadron RAF and the No. 11 Squadron RAF respectively.
  • During the infamous Easter Sunday Raid that occurred in 1942 by the hands of the Japanese, the Colombo Racecourse airstrip was overlooked by the axis fighters during their bombing run, making it possible for the Hurricanes and Blenheims to scramble and intercept the Japanese aircrafts.
  • After the end of the war, the complex was converted back into a horse racing track. However, it never reached its former glory, due to the banning of gambling and betting in the 1950s.
  • It was neglected ever since and was subsequently taken over by the government of the country and distributed to various other government entities, such as the University of Colombo, the Royal College Sports Complex and the Bloomfield Cricket and Athletic Club, along with the iconic grandstand of the complex being used as a temporary garrison for the Sri Lankan Army right up until 2011.
  • It was in 2011 that the Urban Development Authority of the country attempted to give the dilapidated, yet iconic complex a complete face lift, matching international standards.
  • Presently, the Colombo Racecourse is the first fully furnished internationally certified Rugby Union stadium of Sri Lanka that hosts many club level and national level matches.
  • Moreover, the iconic grandstand of the complex is now transformed into a shopping and dining complex, coupled with many upscale establishments, the likes of Laksala and Tsing Tao. Therefore, making it an ideal location to just dine out with your friends and purchase some unique souvenirs.

Times, Seasons and Tips

  • The racecourse does not have a particular season, as it is frequented by many an individual throughout the year.
  • The weekends have been known to be the best time to visit the complex, since a more social atmosphere is established with the Good Market fair taking place at the Sports Ministry car park, which is right next to the grandstand of the racecourse.
  • Due to the many shops, eateries, and bars located in the grandstand, the operating times differ. However, as a whole, the Colombo Racecourse is known to begin their operations at 9.00am and would go on till 12.00am, due to the presence of the bars and clubs.
  • It is an internationally recognized rugby stadium after all, therefore it is imperative that you keep the premises clean and adhere to the rules and regulations set forth by the relevant authorities.
  • Do try and attend a match too, as the atmosphere during a match becomes much livelier and exciting than during a usual relaxed weekend.

In conclusion, many city dwellers have often taken the Colombo Racecourse for granted, due to the state of decay it was in before 2011. However, ever since the face lift in 2011 the complex has always been a venue for many a grand occasion in the form of exhilarating rugby and football matches, along with being a location for all things social in the form of the trendy cafes, restaurants, bars, pubs and, of course, the Good Market.

Title image by: KNOWSL The information displayed is provided by Colombo Racecourse


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