Ipswich Cup ‘all systems go’ as man on mission racing ahead
ASK about the fast approaching Ipswich Cup and newly appointed Tim Dunn offers an honest response.
"It's absolute mixed emotion,'' he said.
"It's a heap of excitement to what the event is going to be but it's all that trepidation prior to how do I make this work, down to the simple part of getting people in the gates to what they are going to do when they get inside.
"Especially with COVID and not having it (Cup Day) last year, it has made some really interesting things happen with the team.''
However, the Ipswich Turf Club CEO and committee secretary is clearly a man on a mission.
"It's all systems go,'' Dunn said, happy to welcome 20,000 racegoers on the big day on June 19.
"We've given them (Queensland Government, the chief health officer and Racing Queensland) a base plan of how this is going to work.
"We're very confident we will be able to run a COVID-safe event.''
Taking over from highly respected general manager Brett Kitching, Dunn has diverse racing and commercial experience that will serve him well tackling his priorities.
After managing a McDonalds store, he won awards for his innovative projects over 12 years with Coca-Cola in Brisbane. He worked in sales, marketing and the supply chain.
Dunn spent three and a half years working at Racing Queensland before the ITC opportunity arose.
Importantly, it was during that time - at Oaks Day in 2017 - that he met Kitching and began a partnership that set him up perfectly for the ITC position.
Not that Tamworth born and bred Dunn expected to get it.
"I'm very grateful to the committee for the opportunity,'' he said.
"I went to the interview with not very high expectations of getting the job.
"Being the number four club in Queensland, it's pretty high profile I'd say.''
After a smooth 12-week transition period while Kitching completed his 17 years of service before retiring, Dunn is feeling comfortable.
"It was really nice to have Brett here side-by-side,'' Dunn, 41, said.
"You could see the confidence he had for the first couple of weeks that it was all going to happen okay.
"He's been doing a lot on the Ipswich Cup for the last couple of months.''
Dunn has 13 permanent staff and 15-50 casuals to call upon for functions as the turf club enters a new era of community development.
His senior staff includes long-serving track manager Sean Tou, operations manager George Musat and marketing, sales and communication manager Claire Power.
"It has been a good grounding because I've been able to get the know the team,'' Dunn said.
"Working with Claire on marketing plans . . . working with George operationally with how things work with the bar and functions. And even help Sean and his team with the rail and do a few things around the place just to see what it's like and how it was.
"I'm very, very lucky with the team I've got. They are very talented and experienced in their fields.
"It's now about getting the best out of the facility and also the things that need to keep growing.''
Big appetite for expansion
While racing will remain the core focus, Dunn is already looking at ways to expand usage of the multimillion-dollar Ipswich Events and Entertainment Centre opened last year.
He wants the accompanying restaurant and bar facilities to operate from Wednesday to Sunday, extended from the current Friday to Sunday trading.
"That just means to me a bigger community space for people to come and use plus also more employment - and that's a big thing for me,'' he said.
The Ipswich newcomer also wants the public to enjoy the turf club amenities on race days and for special events, including functions.
But with all that at the centre of his attention, it is Ipswich's most popular social day of the year that Dunn and his team are preparing for.
Having been to "five or six'' Cup days including his first one in 1997, he knows the significance the event has for the city.
As a university student, he spent time in the popular turf club hub affectionally known as the "Pig Pen''.
"That's where you get to be among the crowd and enjoy stuff,'' he said.
But with the Ipswich Events and Entertainment Centre towering over the former social hub, Dunn knows this year's Cup will begin a new chapter in the club's history.
"It's very interesting to have that one-off event which the club relies heavily on to keep it running,'' he said.
"But it's amazing what goes into it. I'm getting a very big appreciation of all the background that happens to get it moving plus we've also got to do the day-to-day operations of running a midweek race club.
"In monetary terms, we are probably one of the most profitable midweek race clubs where the dollars we generate from the wagering outlay from what Racing Queensland invests are actually quite high in the ratio and how that works.''
Cup Day top of priority list
Asked his priorities for the next six months, Dunn said: "Ipswich Cup is probably one, two and three - we've got the pre, post and actual event.
"It's making sure we've done all the right things in the lead-up, all the right things afterwards.''
He said another priority was building the community space at the upgraded turf club, welcoming more people to the family restaurant and bar and enjoying the Ipswich Events and Entertainment Centre (IEEC) for functions.
Dunn has been encouraged by the growing interest in the IEEC, with 155 guests attending an International Women's Day function last Friday.
That was the biggest sit-down formal function held at the centre since COVID restrictions.
"I hadn't actually experienced our own hospitality until that event and George and his team did an exceptional job,'' the CEO said.
For the Ipswich Cup, Dunn said his team would employ a successful base model formed over many years including updated zoning and check-in procedures.
"The main focus for us to have an event so we want to make sure we are COVID safe, comply with all those provisions of government and local council and everything else to make it work,'' he said.
"With that, we're going to have extra COVID-safe marshals around, extra security, extra sanitation, all those great things so we can have a good event.
"So people understand that yes, the Cup's back and we've got that social atmosphere.''
He said the new stables, Grange gardens and horse entry to the track would provide better viewing for racegoers.
In his previous Racing Queensland role, Dunn worked on the commercial team looking after the wagering and media parts of the business.
After his extended stint at Coca-Cola, he spent some time in the telecommunications industry before accepting the Racing Queensland opportunity.
Country upbringing means business
Nicknamed TD with two teenage kids, Dunn grew up in Tamworth where he spent 17 years before moving to Brisbane to study.
With a business degree from the University of Queensland, Dunn has a diverse interest in racing and the community benefits it provides.
He's excited about The Gathering (Celtic) Festival planned for the turf club in May, a month before the Ipswich Cup.
"That will be a good test for the facility because they are looking at between 8-12,000,'' Dunn said.
The club is also planning a new family day on Sunday, June 6.
Given the Ipswich Cup meeting follows on June 19 as an over-18 event, Dunn said the club wanted to organise a race day with family attractions open to everyone.
"It's a fun sporting event. It's not just about wagering and gambling and those sort of things,'' he said.
"It's a party the family can come and enjoy.''