Next year’s state government budget is ‘make or break’ for the Reid Oval re-development, Warrnambool City Council says.
Councillors have unanimously thrown their support behind it as the city’s number-one sports project and want Western Victorian MP James Purcell to use his unique position of power to secure the cash.
Their stance comes after it was revealed Colac would host an AFL practice match this summer – something Warrnambool is unable to host.
The council is strongly pushing for $10 million in government funding to update the crumbling facilities as other regional cities derive economic and health and well-being benefits from state-of-the art grounds.
South West Sport chief executive officer, Cr Mike Neoh, said an upgrade would not only benefit Warrnambool, but the whole region.
“If you look at other regional cities they all have a premier ground,” he said.
“While most people consider the Reid Oval to be the premier ground in terms of location, in terms of infrastructure you couldn’t call it that.
“That’s the genesis of why we need the oval done. I think it’s not just for Warrnambool, it’s an opportunity for the region as well.
“We have groups in Moyne and Corangamite shires that play in the Hampden league.”
A renovated playing surface, improved lighting, flood lighting for the second netball court and replacing the rail fencing and interchange benches are priorities, as well as demolishing the outdated change rooms, bar and male toilets and creating a new building.
Other proposed upgrades include a terraced spectator area, upgrading viewing from the boundary line and improving the cricket nets area.
Cr Neoh said an upgrade meant the grounds could attract major events such as AFL practice matches or women’s football games.
“The Reid Oval can be a regional facility for the south-west,” he said.
“It’s not just about elite sport. It’s about showcasing participation opportunities.
“The AFLW league is certainly going to drive participation and we need to make sure it is a multi-use and unisex facility. There is a growing demand for women’s football.”
He said a sports administration facility could also support volunteers and drive employment opportunities.
“Organisations could be co-located there,” he said.
“It could generate employment with trainees or work-for-the-dole.”
The re-development of the oval has been a hot issue for more than 20 years with city council candidates running on the topic at last year’s local government elections.
Purcell calls on council, MP to prioritise
Western Victoria MP James Purcell says Warrnambool City Council needs to prioritise its advocacy projects and secure a promise from South West Coast MP Roma Britnell.
He said he would continue to push Reid Oval’s case, but there were plenty of other projects seeking funding.
“In Warrnambool we have the special development school, the library, the hospital, the harbour,” he said.
“As I have said to the council a number of times, they won’t get them all. They need to make sure they have their priorities so this needs to work in where it will fit. It is on my list, but I have about 25 different projects on that list. I will certainly support the council. Last time I met with them they said their major priority was the library, so as I said, they are not going to get them all.”
Mr Purcell said the council needed Mrs Britnell to also promise to fund the upgrade.
“If she doesn’t do that, it’s difficult for me to argue to the government in a seat that they will never win why they should fund it if the local sitting member doesn’t support it and hasn’t got the commitment of the party,” he said.
Mr Purcell said the facilities were “absolutely disgraceful”.
Mrs Britnell said the oval was well overdue for a significant upgrade.
“The former Liberal National Government started the job with funding for the stage one upgrade - which included new netball facilities and an electronic scoreboard – I’m working hard advocating to make sure the job gets finished,” she said.
“A holistic approach is needed for this project, we need council and the user groups working with government and sporting bodies to develop a funding plan to complete the project.”