The Lakeside Hammers continue to fight in a hope to return to Thurrock and resume racing in 2020.
The Hammers have raced at the Arena Essex Raceway for 35 consecutive years after the first meeting on Thursday 5th April in 1984.
Originally called the Arena-Essex Hammers, Lakeside have enjoyed some great success over the years with the 2008 season being one of their most successful. They finished joint top of the table in the Elite League – the top division of British Speedway and managed to reach the Play-Off Final, only to lose out to the Poole Pirates.
They also reached the Final of the Craven Shield where they were beaten by the Coventry Bees. The year after, the Hammers got their revenge by beating the Bees in the KO Cup Final – the club’s first bit of silverware since the 1991 season.
Despite the success the club has had, it has faced some rather precarious situations with the regular threat of the Raceway being sold on for land development.
In 2017, after years of rumours and uncertainty, the property was finally sold to London Strategic Land LTD. who immediately leased the land back to the Stadium owner Lesley Wootton to allow Speedway and Stock Car Racing to continue at the venue for up to another two years.
However, in 2018, the decision was made to not renew the lease into 2019 leaving the Hammers without a home.
The decision came at a bad time for the Hammers who were in the middle of a Play-Off battle and were still chasing silverware in the Championship Shield and Knock-Out Cup. At the time of the shock announcement, the Hammers had a potential 10 home fixtures still to complete, and with the threat of having to default their season, they took the decision to take a temporary lease at Rye House Stadium to allow them to complete the 2018 season.
Hammers Community Liaison Manager Mark Sexton re-called the events of last season: “We didn’t want to move to Rye House, but we had no other choice. The landlords wouldn’t commit to running the number of dates we might have needed and the BSPA told us that once we have raced one fixture away from Arena, we had to race all other meetings away from home. We had such a good home track advantage at the Arena, so we were worried we wouldn’t have that at Rye House.”
Because of the issues the BSPA had with the owners of Rye House, BMR – the sports’ authorities made it clear that the Hammers would be unable to use the facility for racing in 2019, forcing the Hammers to have their race licence put ‘on ice’ for this season whilst they try and re-locate and find a new home in Thurrock.
“We knew the Arena closing was always going to happen” said Sexton.
The club currently have a petition set up with the name ‘#WEARETHURROCKSHAMMERS’ which has already attracted over 3,000 signatures and 1,500 comments. A downloadable letter available on the club’s website makes it easy for fans to write to local MP’s and Politicians stating the importance of keeping the club in the borough of Thurrock.
Sexton who is heading up the campaign, said: “We have always striven to develop a good relationship with the local community. We’ve got a 35-year history in Thurrock with consistently higher attendance’s than any other sporting teams in the borough.
“We are the one club, one sport that can properly unite the community. We know what we want to achieve, and although we don’t know how long it will take, we’ll keep pushing to get people on-board. We want to build a new track and return Speedway and the Hammers to Thurrock.”
With the Berwick Bandits and Workington Comets put up for sale last year as well as other teams over the last few years, Sexton admits the situation facing the Hammers is “a fairly fluid and challenging situation.”
To some people, Speedway may just be a sport, something to do for a couple of hours, but for others it’s much more than that. Speedway is a love, a family and a community. The Lakeside Hammers means a lot to people and the surrounding area.
They are Thurrocks’ Hammers! WE ARE THURROCKS’ HAMMERS!
Please sign the petition below:
By Jordan Hollands