25 July 2023

Dapto Showground's trendy transformation turns iconic site into popular community hub

| Keeli Royle
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Tap House bartender pouring whisky at The Groundz

A pop-up whisky bar is the latest addition to The Groundz Precinct at Dapto Showground. Photos: The Groundz Precinct.

Dapto Showground has transformed its old farm sheds into trendy new spaces and become a popular venue for families and functions.

The site has just opened a new pop-up whisky bar in The Poultry Shed with the Groundz Precinct planning to host even more events to make the most of the venue.

The Groundz Precinct CEO Katrina Novak said they wanted to better utilise the 22 acres available to create greater opportunities for the Dapto community.

“The mission and vision is all about connecting with the community and having a vibrant hub of activity, that’s really the focus,” Katrina said.

“We would like it to be a place where people are coming every few months and where we’ve got a calendar of things happening people can have something close to home where there’s constantly different things going on.”

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The Dapto Agricultural and Horticultural Society was first established in 1857, with the showground one of the last remaining privately operating sites in the state.

The not-for-profit group has used the site for the famous Dapto Show, markets and family fairs, with the racetrack a dominant feature.

But Katrina said the society started to reassess its viability around seven years ago when the future of the greyhound industry was in question.

“The committee got together and had to look at if racing was banned what would this place look like,” she said. “Because that really was our main business model and our main focus.”

Through community consultation they established a future vision for the venue, with potential short-stay accommodation, a children’s playground and more opportunities for hospitality businesses.

“I think the thing for us too is, we’re a not-for-profit, we’re not a club, we don’t have the stipulations and we can see what the community wants,” Katrina said.

But there was some resistance about change, so they initially renovated a couple of sheds to give the community a taste of the venue’s potential.

“When the plans originally got put out it was hard for people to grasp what that means,” Katrina said. “When you see a map you don’t necessarily get the touch and feel of what you’re trying to do.”

With a lot of volunteer help and support from local tradespeople, the group created The Tap House, which has become a hub for local music and events. The Gable has been transformed into a beautiful and affordable option for weddings and functions, and The Poultry Shed is now a whisky bar with the region’s best local spirits.

“There’s not a lot in Dapto and I think that’s a challenge. Along the main street there’s a few little restaurants and cafes but our town centre hasn’t grown in terms of the size of what the population has,” Katrina said.

“We do the whisky flights so we’ve had the true whisky lovers come down but in another way some of the feedback was instead of going to a pub or club in Dapto which are your options, there’s no real bar, so just as a bar it seems to be going well.”

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But even though they are bringing the showground into the modern age, they have not forgotten the site’s humble beginnings.

“It’s really important to us that we bring the history into anything we do,” Katrina said. “There was a lot of talk about changing the name from The Poultry Shed, but no, and everywhere you look there’s chooks and such.”

The community has come out in droves to support the venue and the ideas raised by customers continue to inspire the next best thing for the location.

“People are talking to us about bottomless brunches and summer cocktail days, we’ll just keep moving with the feedback.”

To see the vision for the site head to The Groundz Precinct website.

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