Time to make run on Mars Stadium’s potential, Ballarat | From the Press Box with Melanie Whelan

REWARD: Competitors celebrate crossing the finish line in the Melbourne Marathon festival at the MCG in a unique chance to feel the stadium from a different perspective. Picture: The Age

REWARD: Competitors celebrate crossing the finish line in the Melbourne Marathon festival at the MCG in a unique chance to feel the stadium from a different perspective. Picture: The Age

LET us run on the surface of our new stadium. Not to get into football huddles, but to actually run.

We are still trying to settle in and find what works in Mars Stadium, a little like moving into a new house and testing what works where. 

Now is the time to start considering how we can capitalised on our new stadium in summer months in the next few years so the venue does not merely revert to housing football pre-season training for tenants.

Grandstand construction and venue redevelopment has been on a stadium for the community. We want to feel a sense of true ownership for the place, as well as building the place up for attracting major sporting events for western Victoria to Ballarat.

The city’s first AFL match for premiership points last month was an incredible experience. This has been quickly backed up with the chance for grassroots finals football to take centre stage in a true stadium venue – something new to the whole Goldfields region. Ballarat Junior Football League premiership contenders get their chance this weekend.

This is an amazing opportunity for developing and promoting our football.

But Mars Stadium is not just for football. So, let us run. Or walk.

A stadium entrance is the glory finish, the reward, for Melbourne Marathon festival finishers across all distances.

Running, or walking, into the MCG with your face beamed up on the big screen and people cheering along the way allows all ages and abilities a little taste of sporting glory.

Why not deliver a mass participation event finish, like Run Ballarat, to Mars? This would bring the community right into the stadium, for more people to feel the stadium from a whole different perspective.

Athletics season is firing up. While it may be a complete long shot to transform like Carrara Stadium has on the Gold Coast this week, in preparatory works to install an athletics track for the Commonwealth Games, there are other ways to host athletics on Mars.

Professional running has found a home at Eastern Oval in the two-day Ballarat Gift carnival. While some might argue the Gift could lose some atmosphere in a move to far greater stadium viewing, it could be a chance to create a whole new vibe and running festival for the city to get behind.

Our stadium offers a chance to really showcase a wide variety of sports to this city.

Soccer already has a modern, proven world-class base at Morshead Park and facilities for elite cricket have been shaping up at Eastern Oval.

Consider rugby. The sport has a strong enough footing in Victoria and general widespread appeal.

National Rugby League club Melbourne Storm has shown interest in attracting regional fans from Ballarat.

Super Rugby franchise Melbourne Rebels even staged a trial match against the Fijian international team at St Patrick’s College six years ago.

We talk about hosting AFL pre-season camps and hit-outs, but a stadium for the people demands broader appeal.

We really need to make the most of the incredible facility we have now got, Ballarat.

EXAMPLE: Melbourne Rebels star Stirling Mortlock runs in to score a try during a Super Rugby trial match against Fiji at St Patrick's College in 2011.

EXAMPLE: Melbourne Rebels star Stirling Mortlock runs in to score a try during a Super Rugby trial match against Fiji at St Patrick's College in 2011.

The St George Melbourne Marathon Pictured is competitors making their way over The William Barak Bridge towards the MCG Picture by Pat Scala Sunday the 11th of October 2009 AGE NEWS MELBOURNE MARATHON SPECIAL MARATHON

The St George Melbourne Marathon Pictured is competitors making their way over The William Barak Bridge towards the MCG Picture by Pat Scala Sunday the 11th of October 2009 AGE NEWS MELBOURNE MARATHON SPECIAL MARATHON