Murray Bridge Racing Club says farewell to Maurice Road, hello to Gifford Hill | PHOTOS, VIDEO

The mirage has become a reality.

A $20 million function centre at Gifford Hill, the heart of Murray Bridge's new racecourse precinct, has been touted as the largest and most luxurious in regional South Australia at its official unveiling on Monday.

The Bridges Function Centre will fit 700 people for conferences, or 500-600 for a seated meal, and will employ several dozen permanent and casual staff.

It will open for business on August 10, the date of the first race meeting to be held at Gifford Hill.

Mayor Brenton Lewis, who was involved in the project from the start in his previous role at Regional Development Australia, said it was satisfying to see a dream come to fruition after 11 years of slow progress.

"This sets the club up for a long, long time in the future and builds regional capacity," he said.

"When we get increased accommodation in Murray Bridge, we start to become a destination and we can attract big events here in the future.

"That's a game-changer."

The cost of the function centre was borne equally by the state and federal governments, the racing club and a group of private investors led by property developers Burke Urban.

Liberal Member for Barker Tony Pasin said the federal government had backed it because of the positive impact it would have on the Murraylands' economy.

"You might say 'it's an elite sport', but ... the people growing food for the horses don't regard themselves as elite, the people working behind the TAB stalls don't regard themselves as elite, and the people leading the horses around behind the stables don't regard themselves as elite," he said.

"Racing has this misnomer as 'the sport of kings', but it's an important part of the Australian economy ... whether you're a strapper, a trainer or a mug punter like me."

The move to Gifford Hill will mean saying goodbye to Murray Bridge's Maurice Road racecourse after 115 years.

This Wednesday's race meeting will be the last to be held there.

The final race, a "farewell handicap", will be run at 4.15pm.

Racing club chairman Reg Nolan said he would feel a little sadness at departing the old track, but that it was time to move on, to get bigger and "go to the next level".

After being decommissioned, the old racecourse will make way for several hundred houses in an estate to be called Newbridge.

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