Victorian-based AFL clubs will soon boast modern and up-to-date facilities to match those of non-Victorian clubs, and they will be made available to community groups and the general public, as part of a $55 million funding project announced by the AFL and the Victorian government on Wednesday.
The project will mean major overhauls of much-loved former AFL match venues that are now club training and administrative bases including MC Labour Park (formerly Princes Park), Punt Road Oval, Moorabbin, Windy Hill, Arden Street , Victoria Park and Waverley Park.
The AFL will commit $10.3 million over the next three years to the project, with the state government adding $14 million. The seven affected AFL clubs (Carlton, Richmond, St Kilda, Essendon, the Kangaroos, Collingwood and Hawthorn) will commit $15 million between them as will the various local councils.
Speaking at the project launch at Punt Road on Wednesday, AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou said it was a landmark day for the Victorian AFL clubs and the community at large.
"There’s no argument the club facilities needed attention. The Victorian AFL Club Facilities Funding Program initiatives announced today will go a long way to ensuring Victorian clubs keep pace with the advances made by clubs interstate," he said.
"It will mean that the improved facilities are more open to community organisations and that the daily connection between the clubs and their diverse local communities is strengthened.
"It is a win for AFL clubs and a win for the wider community who will use the facilities or benefit from those that do. This funding is an investment and one that will provide a significant return to the community," Demetriou said.
Several of the one-time AFL venues will undergo significant redevelopment as part of the project. Among the grandstands that will disappear include:
- the Pratt and Gardiner stands at MC Labour Park
- the Richmond Social Club stand at Punt Road
- both grandstands at Moorabbin
- the upper level of the Rush Stand at Victoria Park
Other grandstands such as the Cookson Stand at Windy Hill, the Heroes and Harris stands at MC Labour Park, the Jack Dyer Stand at Punt Road and the Ryder and Sherrin stands at Victoria Park will all undergo major refurbishment.
St Kilda will get an entirely new facility at Moorabbin with a new training complex to be built where the grandstands currently sit, while a new social club and merchandising outlet will be nearby facing the busy South Road.
Victorian premier Steve Bracks welcomed the creation of new "community assets".
"These are assets which have been built up for the national competition over a long period of time and, of course, if we don't take action now, we can see that they will deteriorate and this is a great opportunity not just to upgrade those facilities … but also to ensure we have greater community access.
"This is a good opportunity to utilise state resources, council resources and also the resources of the clubs and the AFL to open them up for the community.
"This is a good co-operative partnership and venture that we are entering into."
Wednesday's announcement follows on from work either completed, in progress or in the wings for the three other Victorian-based AFL clubs. Geelong's redevelopment of Skilled Stadium is complete with talk of a further refurbishment already being suggested, the redevelopment of the Western Bulldogs' headquarters at the Whitten Oval now underway and a new sports facility to be built alongside Olympic Park near the MCG with Melbourne as a key tenant.
The redeveloped Skilled Stadium, at which several community groups share facilities with the Geelong Football Club, is regarded as the model for the other AFL training venues going forward.