WARRNAMBOOL and South Warrnambool football-netball clubs are open to discussions about sharing the Reid Oval as a home ground in a step towards making the reserve an elite sporting venue.
While the idea of the cross-town rivals becoming co-tenants may have some dyed in the wool fans upset, both teams have agreed they can see the benefits to the region.
Warrnambool Football Club chairman of football Wally Steere said he and South Warrnambool president Gary Walsh had discussed the idea superficially.
Steere said Warrnambool would “be happy to have South Warrnambool as a co-tenant”, while Walsh said South Warrnambool was “certainly happy to consider all options”.
Their comments follow an opinion piece written earlier this month in which The Standard’s sports editor Greg Best suggested it was “time for vested interests to be pushed aside” in the quest for a high-class facility that could only be achieved through the pooled resources of multiple clubs.
Best’s column inspired Warrnambool sportsman and solicitor Shane Wilson to come forward with his proposal, which he had already floated with South Warrnambool in the past.
“The positive impact of having premier sporting facilities is so important,” Wilson said. “We’ll have another 20,000 people in Warrnambool in future years … and we need sporting facilities befitting of a city this size.
“The Reid Oval’s got problems onfield for spectators and the netballers and the Friendlies will cost a lot of money to get up to scratch.”
Wilson said the lack of a high-quality oval and facilities meant the region was missing out on major sporting events, while not giving south-west sportspeople the level of facilities offered by other communities.
He listed footy grounds in Ballarat, Bendigo, Shepparton, St Arnaud, Ararat, Donald and Swan Hill as being “so much better” than the best Warrnambool could offer.
Mr Wilson’s proposal also listed the creation of another oval to be located in the corner of Albert Park between Reid Oval and Cramer Street, which he suggested could be used for cricket and for South Warrnambool to train on.
Warrnambool’s Mr Steere agreed, saying “there was enough space outside the oval to build a nice ground for Nestles Cricket Club” but the best aspect of the proposal was the possibilities for the Reid Oval facility.
“The only way to get enough funding is if South Warrnambool came on board,” he said.
“We’d be more than happy to have South Warrnambool come up and be a co-tenant of the ground and I think that’s the only way things could get kick-started.”
Mr Steere said he believed “the main issue for South Warrnambool would be keeping their own identity”.
South Warrnambool’s Gary Walsh agreed, adding that the Roosters would probably prefer to continue at the Friendly Societies’ Park should such a move go ahead.
But Mr Walsh said he could see the advantages to sharing the Reid.
“I think it’s time we have a stadium in the Western District that would have to be shared by two clubs,” he said.
“South Warrnambool will consider all the options.
“But someone’s got to drive this.”
Mr Walsh said he could foresee under-cover netball courts, a terraced grandstand and improved lighting for night games, potentially creating a venue that could attract AFL pre-season games or Australian cricket championships.
He said South Warrnambool was hoping to secure $880,000 to improve conditions and facilities at the Friendlies, but agreed two teams could draw on a bigger pool to create a better stadium. A Warrnambool City Council spokeswoman said council “is working with local football clubs to explore options for major improvements at Reid Oval”.
“Council recognises the value of having the oval developed as the premier sports ground in the region, and will continue to work with sporting clubs to develop funding proposals for major improvements.”