It’s about more than just sport

Questions continue to be asked as to whether $12.5 million for upgrades to the dilapidated Reid Oval is a wise investment when so many other projects and issues abound in the south-west.

Readers of The Standard have been quick to point out this money would be better spent on our appalling and dangerous roads, hospital upgrades, the harbour, tourism projects … the list goes on.

But let’s focus on what is really behind the long-awaited upgrade.

Clearly, the oval is in rotten shape. Quite apart from its lack of lighting, poor surface and antiquated spectator amenities, as the region’s premier sporting venue it is shameful that its changerooms force both senior and junior female players to share facilities with men and boys. 

However, the Reid Oval upgrade is not just about better amenities for local sportspeople and spectators alike.

The upgrade also caters for a centralisation of football and other sport administrators. As much as recent events show and demand that football’s backroom leaders need to become more professional, they need the facilities to support this journey.

But most importantly, the upgrades are aimed at raising Reid Oval to a standard that would allow AFL pre-season games (and potentially other major sporting events) to be staged in the south-west.

The bare numbers are compelling. The council’s business case states the $12.5 million upgrade would return $88 million over 25 years to the region’s economy, thus paying for itself under four years.

But there’s more to this than meets the eye. Pre-season games draw the nation’s eye to us. The value of TV and multi-media coverage and downstream publicity is worth eye-wateringly large sums and cannot be “bought”.

It is disingenuous to say funding for the upgrade would be better used elsewhere. Federal and state governments do not work like that. If we are to secure the cash needed, we need to unite behind what is clearly a project that will benefit the region and strengthen participation in sport for men, women and children.