How the decades have changed the picture.
20 years ago the prospect of a stadium in Ballarat to host AFL games might have seemed a ridiculous dream, but over the past decade a key group of advocates brought it to prominence and now an ever-nearing reality.
There may have been a four year hiatus as political sides bickered over what was the highest priority, but this paper never stopped arguing that it was about a lot more than sport. Fast forward the years, and with the commitment made and the construction started this dream now has the shape of a coming of age in many ways for a regional city.
The unheralded god-send to come along this year was the astonishing performance of Ballarat’s relatively new partner club the Western Bulldogs. Their fairy tale year is all the more astonishing given only 20 years ago the club faced a crisis in its future survival and Footscray was in post industrial decline.
After seven preliminary final knock-outs in as many years, the Western Bulldogs entered their first grand final in 55 years. They won their first grand final in 62 years. All this is much celebrated history now, but the sense of a new era was palpable and Ballarat is lucky to be able to both claim it and be badged with it.
The Bulldogs proudly wear the name Ballarat badged on their gear and will play one regular season match in Ballarat in 2017 against Port Adelaide. It is a high-profile partnership that taps into that spirit of the underdog triumphant that sport so celebrates and amplifies. It doesn't reflect badly on Ballarat either.
The $15 million project at Eureka, which will result in the construction of a 5000-seat grandstand, is set to be completed by 2017, making the overall capacity of the stadium once completed at more-than 11,000. Bulldogs president Peter Gordon said he hoped the five-year agreement between the club, the AFL and the state government to play games in Ballarat would turn into a 100-year commitment.
Twenty years ago Ballarat was striving to grab Crows supporters motoring down the highway to catch their own grand final ambitions live. But they were the crumbs from the AFL table. Now those South Australians will hopefully make Ballarat their destination bringing lucrative tourism benefits.
And all that investment and effort will begin to pay off.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.