Arena Essex Raceway: 'Books no longer add up' for closing arena

Image caption,
The Arena Essex Raceway has been at the site for 40 years

The promoter behind a motorsports stadium is preparing to bid it an emotional farewell after 40 years.

Arena Essex Raceway, in Purfleet, is due to close by November with arena operator Lesley Wootten saying it had become unviable.

The site, which is home to the Lakeside Hammers speedway team, banger racing and other events, was founded by her father in 1978.

It has been sold to London Strategic Land and earmarked for housing.

Ms Wootten said falling driver and spectator numbers coupled with increased costs meant the "books no longer add up".

Image caption,
Lesley Wootten's father Chick Woodroffe founded the Arena Essex Raceway in 1978

She said: "Unfortunately we are reliant on others hiring the stadium and their success.

"For the Lakeside Hammers their last two years have financially not been very good and that impacts us and our bar as well our concessions - the food traders and shop holders."

The decision has been an emotional one for the family who have run the arena since Ms Wootten's father Chick Woodroffe built it on the site of a former cement works - starting out on a rainy May Day in front of 3,000 people.

She said she had wanted to reveal the news before the end of the motorsport season so drivers could be forewarned.

Ms Wootten said: "It has been a bit surreal, we have had some really good feedback.

"It has been emotional."

While the future of the Lakeside Hammers, which currently hires the arena, has not been decided, the new owners of the site are due to meet in September to discuss options, Ms Wooten said.

Image caption,
Lakeside Hammers have been based at the arena since 1984

She said the site was earmarked for housing by Thurrock Council in the early 2000s with the possibility of a compulsory purchase having been floated in 2006, which had meant her business could not make long-term investments.

The final event at the Arena is scheduled to be the Firecracker banger racing on 4 November.

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