PASSIONATE Ballarat Sport and Entertainment Precinct supporter Gerard FitzGerald believes the University of Ballarat could hold the key in getting the project over the line.
In an exclusive column published in The Courier today, the North Ballarat Roosters coach said UB had the potential to be a “linchpin” in the plan’s success.
“I have it on good authority that facilities vital to the human movement/sport science faculty have just about run their race and are in need of a major capital injection,” FitzGerald wrote.
“What a perfect opportunity for the university and general community to join forces to establish a state-of-the-art campus in the Eureka precinct to service students and the general community – maximising its use.”
FitzGerald said the centrepiece of the proposed $80million redevelopment at Eureka Stadium was a 15,000-seat ground, but the project was not purely about bringing AFL games to Ballarat.
His comments come as the AFL seeks a resolution to the burden of not owning Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium, with reports suggesting it is considering upgrading another Victorian venue to maximise revenue for tenant clubs.
UB vice-chancellor Professor David Battersby said the university had been a long-time supporter of the redevelopment.
“We believe it will be of great benefit to our region and we are happy to discuss these matters further. We would like to be involved with the upgrade,” Professor Battersby told The Courier.
Ballarat mayor Cr John Burt said a project consortium had been working on a draft masterplan for Eureka Stadium and the precinct since May 2012.“The masterplan which was co-funded by the state government will consider delivering stadium seating, an exhibition space of around 3000 square metres and facilities for professional level and community level sports,” he said.
“We are expecting the first draft of the masterplan in eight weeks. The masterplan will be presented to the community and state and federal governments after that point.
“The state government-funded $1 million upgrade of change room facilities is currently under way. The upgraded change rooms will enable pre-season AFL games and NAB Cup games in the 2014 season.”
North Melbourne has also been a long-term supporter of the project.
Kangaroos chief executive Carl Dilena reaffirmed the club’s position, saying it had worked hard over the past few years to promote Ballarat as the next destination for AFL fixtures.
“It’s largely out of our hands. The community needs to firstly embrace the stadium concept to convince the AFL of its commitment. We will support in any way we can,” he said.
“As I mentioned when we were in Ballarat recently, it is now over to the people of the Ballarat region to get behind the stadium concept if they would like to see the possibility of AFL in Ballarat.”
AFL media relations manager Patrick Keane said the AFL hadn’t had any recent detailed discussions around premiership season matches in Ballarat.