BALLARAT indoor sports have been left reeling after the federal government turned its back on a case for a redeveloped stadium.
This time it was a definitive rejection. The Ballarat Sports and Events Centre project was knocked back in the third and final round for a National Stronger Regions Fund grant.
A $10 million funding bid would have transformed redevelopment works into a stadium at a standard capable of attracting national and international sports and major events.
Basketball Ballarat, City of Ballarat and state league netball club Sovereigns have repeatedly led the call that this funding was vital to compete with large modern facilities in rival regions Geelong, Bendigo and Werribee.
The Abbott-Turnbull Government has not funded one Ballarat infrastructure project the past three years.
This latest dismissal comes after months of lobbying senior government ministers and the Department of Infrastructure, and fine-tuning earlier applications.
A decision on round three funding remained in limbo an extra three months due to the federal election but the overall campaign has intensified the past 24 months with bursting court space.
In a statement released on Friday, Basketball Ballarat chief executive officer Peter Eddy said all indoor sports were deeply disappointed with the rejection, which would curtail the capacity for regional sports and athlete development to grow across western Victoria.
He said western Victoria stands to lose about $5.5 million in economic benefit.
Ballarat Sports and Events Centre project will proceed with a $14 million stage one development, adding four new courts, including a 1500-seat show court. This is with combined state and local government funding.
The $10 million difference would have been two more courts, a 3000-seat show court and multi-purpose facilities that could cater for University of the Third Age classes, elite teams lecture rooms and regional sports administrative hubs.
Ballarat MP Catherine King slammed the government’s handling of the latest NSRF announcements, spruiking projects before the program was finalised. This included a $2.09 million splash on a Bendigo Tennis Centre expansion unveiled on Wednesday.
Ms King queried whether the government was playing favourites. She said in three years of gifting millions in regional funding, not a cent had gone to Ballarat, Moorabool or Hepburn.
“All three areas have a great need for resources. It’s not just the Ballarat Sports and Events Centre, but also the industrial precinct in Bacchus Marsh and renewable projects in Daylesford and across the region,” Ms King said. “This is not because our region has projects that aren’t worth it – the basketball centre has demonstrated value, as recognised by the state government and private investors...It simply isn’t good enough.”
BSEC had the strong backing of Central Highlands Councils Victoria, which promoted the stadium as a priority project to benefit the region. Ararat mayor and group chairman Paul Hooper has said this would benefit junior player development and create a tourism boost across the region.
BSEC had the backing of Australian Opals coach Brendan Joyce and Melbourne United but both needed to consider other venues for camps and practice matches, more suited to modern elite player needs.
Basketball Australia has already deemed Ballarat unfit to host national championships due to dilapidated and small facilities.
Ms King pledged $5 million to the project during the federal election.
Liberal Wannon MP Dan Tehan said Ballarat was a key centre for western Victoria sport but $10 million under the NSRF was a large ask. He said bids were competitive and of the 479 applications, the most allocated to a Victorian project was $3.4 million.
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