Gillman Speedway came about as the result of the closure of the nearby North Arm Speedway in March 1997.
David Parker, as President of the Speedway Riders’ Association of South Australia Inc., inspected many sites before it was decided, with the help of Motorcycling SA President Ivan Golding, to move to the Heini Becker Park Motorsport Complex at Gillman.
The area where the Gillman Stadium is now located was covered by truck loads of dirt and rubbish and was used as a supercross track by the MRA, but with no more than an old water truck, an old Gallion Grader and a Massie Ferguson tractor, the race was on to get a track down by the summer to allow continuity of the sport without a break.
With no money for new dolomite, a small 213 metre track was formed using dolomite from the old North Arm track, with used car tyres for a safety fence and after a try out in early October the first official practice was held on Sunday, 19 October 1997.
Low key practice meetings were held on a more-or-less monthly basis while a larger 400 metre track was also formed, with just a basic dirt surface. The 400 metre track was approximately where the current track is, while turns one and two (for Solos) of the larger track doubled as the main straight of the smaller track which ran North-South. The first full meeting on the larger track was held on Saturday, 16 May 1998.
For two years we continued to run low key meetings monthly, usually on Sunday afternoons, until November 1999 when a practice session was held under temporary lights, powered by generators. The practice went well and on Friday, 7 January 2000 the first night meeting was staged, which was the South Australian Solo Championship. A second night meeting featuring Australian Sidecar Champions Glenn and Nathan O’Brien was held on 24 March 2000.
Throughout this time work was continuing on turning the venue into what we now have.
With the financial help of a couple of speedway-passionate people and the manpower of a few more interested people, riders and parents, the existing two tracks were leveled over the Winter of 2000 and the 295 metre track we now have was built.
Still using the generator-powered temporary lights the new track successfully opened on Australia Day (26 January) 2001 with the staging of the Jack Young Solo Cup and the Harry Denton Memorial Shield for Sidecars.
An estimated 1,500 spectators saw Nathan Simpson win the first race in a time of 59.59 seconds which became, and remained, the track record until Leigh Adams’ first ride in heat 11, when Adams reduced the record to 57.81. Adams went on to win the Final from Shane Parker, Travis McGowan and Nigel Sadler, while Townsville’s Gary Moon and Chris Hughes won the Harry Denton Shield ahead of the current Australian Champions Glenn and Nathan O’Brien from Perth, Justin Plaisted/Mark Plaisted and Ron Parker/Shane Rudloff.
A further two night meetings were held in February and March 2001, including the Australian Under 21 Solo Championship.
After another two seasons under the temporary lights, including a Test Match between Young Australia and Young England, further financial assistance from private individuals enabled us to connect to the power grid and erect permanent lighting. At the same time work was constantly going on building up and greening the spectator viewing mounds.
In the winter of 2006 a Junior track was built on the infield to encourage junior development and was opened in October by legendary Rowley Park Speedway promoter Kym Bonython. Also at this time with severe mains water restrictions, a bore was sunk to allow us to water the track and irrigate the lawns, and new change rooms with showers were built in the pits.
The following winter the VIP/ Function area was built and for the first time the Speedway Riders Association had a clubrooms of their own and somewhere to call home.
In the Winter of 2008 a new grader and water truck were purchased with the generous support of our major sponsors.
Prior to the 2009/10 season the wind-break fence was erected along the top of the western mound, and more canteens were built on both sides of the stadium to cater for the bigger crowds attracted to the major event nights such as the Australian Championship.
The winter of 2011 was a busy one and saw three major improvements – the spectator viewing mound at the western end was fully terraced, the main canteen was enlarged and re-fitted to allow for a greater variety of food, and perhaps most important of all, a Speedway Safety System Airfence, the most up-to-date and safest Speedway fence that is manufactured, was purchased and installed in November 2011. Full details of the Airfence can be seen on the Stadium tab on the Gillman Speedway website.
With the 2011 projects – the terracing of the western mound and the improved canteens – aimed at improving spectator comfort, attention switched more to the riders in the winter of 2012 with the construction of covered pit bays. With some financial assistance from a State Government Grant, granted in recognition of Gillman Speedway’s contribution to the sporting fabric of Port Adelaide, 91 metres of covered bays were built along the back boundary of the pits, each bay complete with lights, power and compressed air. And they have been built in such a way that the public is still able to view the riders from a path which runs behind the pits. Other improvements included a new ticket box at the main gate and the introduction of electronic tills.
The major, immediately noticeable work undertaken during the 2013 winter has been the bituminised pit surface put down by Downer, a leading engineering and infrastructure services company with a long and strong South Australian footprint. Less obvious are sumps which have been put in the pits and turn one for sidecars, which includes a submersible pump which automatically switches on to pump water away from the venue.
In conjunction with the bituminising of the pits a new medical room has been put in the pits, which follows a new pit office which was put in place towards the end of the last season. As well as the new medical room, the Speedway has its own ambulance which it purchased last season from the Speedway Medical Advisor, Jenny Bichard and her husband Keith, who initially purchased the ambulance and renovated it for use at motor cycle events around South Australia.
Two new toilet blocks have been added to the venue, behind the main bar/canteen area near the pits, and the VIP Area also has its own toilet now.
The fence along the top of the western terracing has been extended a further 46 metres, down to the canteen area which should stop some of the southerly winds, and the most recent task has been adding fertiliser to the infield area which will be fully seeded in September/October so the infield should be fully grassed by January of February 2014.
There will be more improvements in the years to come. For example, the spectator area alongside the back straight has been deliberately left flat as we want to eventually (when funds allow) build a grandstand there.