Grumbling about the weather is something of a Ballarat pastime, so the inclement nature of Sunday’s AFL game was sure to bring out the normal chorus of weather reactions ranging from shivering despair to scoffing amusement.
The weather is the weather and little can be done about it when you are playing an essentially winter sport, so these cathartic outpourings are understandable enough.
But when it comes to some of the other issues that coloured Sunday’s event, there are questions that need to be answered if the modern and expensive facility is to adapted for its best use in future.
The answer to most of these questions lie squarely with the AFL who can make a difference both in their planning and their priorities.
The first of these was the timing of the game, scheduled to meet the demands of free to air TV coverage and its pre-news Sunday slot.
LISTEN: “It was the coldest I’ve ever been my life on a football field.”
But what has worked for the TV viewers hasn’t worked for those on the field.
Whether measured by crowd numbers or the team feedback, this twilight slot is not ideal for Ballarat.
Already Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge has said he wants the games earlier in the day and earlier in the season.
From the coach’s perspective the principle problem was, despite bringing in an array of costly lighting, there appears to be a consensus shared by spectators that the game was just too hard to see.
Add to this the absence of the big screen operating as it should; what is now a given at any AFL game, and you have delivered an inferior spectator experience.
This may mean little to the non-football loving public but to those who travel up from Melbourne and pay a minimum of $25 for admittance, they have an expectation they are not going to get some inferior “bush league” experience.
“It was like watching the Roosters out there playing again,” commented one local football aficionado of what should be elite level event.
Many more might dismiss these problems as simply hiccups in what are still the first of the events at a major regional facility.
True enough but reputation can build quickly and take a lifetime to undo.
Moreover as Mars Stadium is something of a public investment by all of Ballarat, its ongoing success and popularity has much wider implications than a single bleak Sunday afternoon.