Ballarat-based home and away AFL games would be a distant prospect under new plans for the city’s sports and entertainment precinct but city leaders have backed the staged approach as a more pragmatic way forward.
The Ballarat City Council’s $80 million master plan featuring a 15,000-seat boutique AFL stadium has been downsized to a 6000-seat facility in a bid to slash the project’s hefty price tag.
North Ballarat Football Club chief executive officer Mark Patterson backed the move as the right way forward for growing AFL in Ballarat and “a more realistic approach to what could be a really powerful vision for the city”.
He said historically, most stadiums tended be staged over a period of time.
“Unless a specific new club comes into the competition . . . to be pragmatic about what you do to position yourself to a potential opportunity, a staged approach is best,” he said.
“It’s not a backwards step. I think it’s a very positive thing.”
The council identified priorities from its previous $80 million draft master plan and presented them to the state government and opposition at the recent launch of the Ballarat Regional Capital Plan.
It shows $37 million of projects for the precinct, including a scaled-down $15 million 6000-seat stadium.
Mr Patterson said Ballarat already had the opportunity to host NAB Cup games and its own VFL team but not the infrastructure to make hosting big games profitable.
“If we had the infrastructure there, these projects could be invested back . . . to start to build a really strong message that football is going to grow in this city,” he said.
“I think we should be aspirational in that vision. It didn’t happen overnight in Geelong.”
Asked if the downsized stadium would reduce Ballarat’s capacity to host an AFL game, and what sort of events a 6000-seat stadium would cater for, AFL media relations manager Patrick Keane said the AFL was supportive of redevelopments of regional venues.
“The primary result of any work on key grounds in smaller centres is the increased facilities provided to the local leagues who use the venues for the vast majority of times, particularly for grand finals and inter-league matches,” he said.
“A 6000-seat venue in Ballarat gives us further options around pre-season matches, club practice matches and training camps for AFL clubs, while there are much larger options also for options below AFL level – playing matches in the national Under 16 and Under 18 championships, national women’s championships
and the international cup.”
North Ballarat Roosters coach Gerard FitzGerald described the revised plan as a good start for the site, while Committee for Ballarat chief executive John Kilgour said the previous proposal was considered too big to attract immediate government