Finally, earth moves for stadium after more than decade in making

FOUNDATIONS are being laid on a project more than 10 years in the making.

Earthworks are already well underway on the eastern side of Ballarat Sports and Events Centre but an official construction launch on Tuesday morning allowed key parties a chance to celebrate together in what was finally unfolding.

Indoor sports groups, led by Basketball Ballarat, first entered talks to address a critical court shortage in 2006.

The final $10 million federal grant to complete the full $24 million vision for the stadium was secured last year after three failed bids under the now-defunct National Stronger Regions Fund. The full stadium will feature six new courts, including a 3000-seat show court, added to the existing Norman Street site with new community multi-purpose class rooms and sports medicine facilities.

Basketball Ballarat chief executive Peter Eddy said it felt a pretty emotional moment to formally get works underway. 

“This was about belief in the message we had, but also about making sure we took people on a journey with us,” Mr Eddy said.

“I’m just so proud really understand the value, not just for the elite athlete but the grassroots participant. It’s the kid who hasn’t started playing yet who will use these facilities.”

  • Watch the first sod turn below

Ballarat patron senator Jane Hume, on-site for construction launch, said persistence had paid off. But she said the key that finally got the project over the line was a sustained united passion from a wide cross-section of sporting and communities groups across the city.

Nicholson Construction director Richard Nicholson confirmed BSEC was scheduled for completion by June next year. Work on laying the slab on the eastern wing is expected to begin next month.

There will be minimal disruption to basketball and netball matches on existing facilities amid construction.

Ballarat mayor Samantha McIntosh said the city already drew a lot of sporting participants from across the city and across western Victoria. This stadium would offer far greater opportunities to promote an active community.

“If we’ve got healthy people, fit young people and families, who are active in the community and involved, we know they can make a great contribution to Ballarat in the long term,” Cr McIntosh said.

Major steps on path to upgrade

- 2004-05: Minerdome upgrades to host basketball for Commonwealth Games in March 2006.

- 2006-10: Ballarat Basketball investigates options to expand. Other indoor sports groups enter talks in September 2010 to address critical court shortage.

Ballarat mayor Samantha McIntosh, Victorian Regional Development Minister Jaala Pulford and Senator Jane Hume turn the first sod at BSEC. Picture: Kate Healy

Ballarat mayor Samantha McIntosh, Victorian Regional Development Minister Jaala Pulford and Senator Jane Hume turn the first sod at BSEC. Picture: Kate Healy

- 2011: Community groups like University of the Third Age and sporting bodies like Basketball Victoria Country explore chance for shared bases and community use.

- March 2012: Plans for new six-court facility in Wendouree made public.

- May 2013: Council commits to deliver major new indoor sports facility in five-year plan. Elite basketball, netball needs training base. Courts overflowing.

- November 2014: Labor state government delivers $9 million to project with $5 million from council.

- 2015-October 2016: Project narrowly misses funding three times under National Stronger Regions Fund.

- July 31, 2017: Federal government announces $10 million for project under new Building Better Regions Fund.