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Chick Woodroffe saw the potential of a package of land at Thurrock in Essex not far from the Dartford tunnel, the first event he staged was a Stock Car meeting on the 1st May 1978, it was to be another six years before Chick Woodroffe, joined by Wally Mawdsley became promoters of Speedway at the Arena Essex Raceway.

The opening meeting took place on 5 April 1984, with Bob Garrad winning the Essex Radio Championship that took place that day. The track was laid inside the existing tarmac Stock Car circuit, and lacked the usual fencing on the outside, it being felt that the wide area of tarmac should be sufficient area for the speedway riders to gain control of their machines, the perimeter of the dirt track being marked by white flags but it must have felt very strange to visiting riders and a number were excluded for leaving the track and also the lack of fence was the cause of another Arena Essex ritual the removal of the outside starting gate post following the start of each race, it was taken to the inside green until the finish of that heat when it was replaced for the start of the next one.  

The speedway team racing out of Arena Essex Raceway were in the National League for the first six years of their existence they did however have a change of promotion during this period when Peter Thorogood replaced Wally Mawdsley  in 1986, the team was know as the Hammers, perhaps in tribute to the now defunct West Ham team.

1991 and changes to the track, the league name and the promotion; the amalgamation of the British and the National leagues saw the Hammers become founder members of the newly named British League Division Two, the promoters were now Terry Russell and Ivan Henry and these gentlemen oversaw changes to the track that meant racing now took place on a more conventional track with a safety fence installed for the start of the 1991 season.  This year saw the Hammers crowned the league champions which saw them move from the British League Division Two to British League Division One in 1992 and the Arena Essex track saw top league racing for the first time.

1995 and the amalgamation of the British League Division One and Two saw the Hammers racing in the now named Premier League. 1996, Hackney returned to league racing and the Terry Russell/Ivan Henry promotion chose to move to Hackney which left Chick Woodroffe and Peter Thorogood back in the promotion seat at Arena. Not sure why, perhaps some of Arena’s riders also chose Hackney, but the promoting decided to enter the Hammers team in the Conference League (lowest league) for this year.

1997 saw the league re-arrangement again this time the Premier league was split back into two separate leagues the higher one now being called the Elite and the lower remained the Premier - Arena Essex were to race back in the Premier League finishing the season mid-table. This year saw some extra excitement at the Raceway when the BBC decided to use the speedway track to film part of the Eastenders story there, the character Ricky Butcher, played by actor Sid Owen, was in the soap to be a rider for the imaginary speedway team called the Walford Lions, Hammers rider Troy Pratt took the actors place for the actual race footage.

In 2000 Chick Woodroffe decided that because of his failing health the promotion at the Arena should be sold, this was achieved with a consortium called Arena Speedway 2000 Limited taking over, the management was now headed by Colin Brine with Peter Thorogood as co-promoter. The year was to end with the death of the man considered by many to be ‘the sprit of Arena Essex’ and the loss of Chick Woodroffe cast a sadness over the Raceway where he will be remembered with gratitude for years to come.

There was further adjustment in the administration of the Raceway in 2002 it being taken over by Stonehall Limited and being promoted on their behalf by Colin Brine and Ronnie Russell. At the same time major reconstruction took place at the Arena including the speedway track, the length being reduced from 285 meters to 252. 2003 and the promotion was in the hands of Ronnie Russell alone, under his guidance the team moved from the Premier League in 2003 to the Elite in 2004 and has remained there until the present day (2013). In 2009 the name was changed from Arena Essex Hammers to Lakeside Hammers, I have no idea why this change was made and most long term speedway people still think of the team as Arena Essex and with that of the man who started it all twenty nine years ago, Chick Woodroffe.

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Thanks to Robert Rogers for the images and John Jarvis for allowing me to use facts found in the book Homes of British Speedway