Jockey Club steward Brian Stevenson could not have summed it up better when he described Sha Tin's new $400 million parade ring as 'the world's first truly 21st-century racecourse'. Addressing a VIP guest list including Chief Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and Hong Kong Tourism Board chairman Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee, Mr Stevenson hailed the magnificent structure, which promises to become an icon of Hong Kong architecture. 'The opening of this redeveloped, covered parade ring, complete with its many splendid facilities, is something of which Hong Kong racing can justifiably be very proud,' Mr Stevenson told the huge crowd that packed every vantage point along five floors of balconies at the November 21 'topping out' ceremony. 'This is part of a racecourse facilities improvement initiative that began three years ago. In this time we have introduced the Mezza One restaurant, new air-conditioned betting zones, and the world-record-breaking Diamond Vision screen here at Sha Tin. 'These many improvements reflect our confidence in the future of Hong Kong racing, strengthen our mission to provide world-class racing and betting entertainment, and show our commitment to providing our customers with a brand new racing experience. By constructing this new parade ring, we have doubled its former capacity, providing much more convenient access for patrons from every floor to view the pre-race form of the horses. And come rain or shine, the world's first fully retractable parade ring roof will make the pre-race paddock inspection a more comfortable experience. 'If it is too hot, the temperature can be controlled via spot cooling. If it is wet, the roof will provide shelter. The brand new Diamond Vision screen is another innovation that will provide customers with vital racing information and videos of key form races.' Mr Stevenson, who owns horses in Hong Kong and Singapore, is in a good position to appreciate the benefits to the equine athletes. 'The horses will also benefit from the cooler, less-exposed environment helping them to relax better and perform to their best on the track,' he says. Mr Stevenson predicts the parade ring will soon become a Hong Kong landmark the local community can utilise for special occasions. 'Sha Tin racecourse is clearly setting the standard in terms of top-class facilities to match its top-class racing, and we very much hope all of you enjoy this most unique racing experience, and enjoy it to the full.' It took 18 months to develop the idea for this massive project, and another 18 months to construct it. The Jockey Club's executive director of racing, Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, recalled a meeting of the racing committee headed by the club's late chairman, Alan Li Fook-sum, in which several ideas were bounced around. 'We were asking ourselves how we could create a new racing experience,' Mr Engelbrecht-Bresges says. 'The parade ring is the major feature of the whole racing event. This is where people come to see the major players - the horses, as well as the big-name personalities behind them, the jockeys and trainers. 'Over the years, we had looked out at our existing parade ring and often our customers were out there, in the blazing sun, shielding their heads with newspapers. They were certainly not in a state of comfort, but that was clearly how important it was to them to be watching the horses in the parade ring.' Mr Li put his considerable force behind the concept, reportedly instructing his team to: 'think about something really wild, then let's explore it'.