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Grounds for ill feeling
Saturday 22nd July 2006  |  More News

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A four-way tug of war has begun over the relocation of Athletics Victoria to Albert Park.

The Collingwood and Melbourne Football Clubs and South Melbourne Soccer Club are also involved in the sports venue puzzle the State Government is trying to solve.

Under the government plan, AV would move to a drastically revamped Bob Jane Stadium. But it is fighting to keep its traditional home at Olympic Park.

The Government believes Bob Jane Stadium, owned by Parks Victoria, would be more affordable and allow for greater development of the sport.

A lack of parking and surrounding tollways at Olympic Park have also encouraged the move from AV's base of 50 years.

"The critical thing is that the infrastructure down there, apart from the track, is obsolete or close to obsolete," Sports Minister Justin Madden said.

"It's inefficient. It doesn't cater for the needs of athletics going into the future, so we've got to do some serious work on what's going to assist them."

Collingwood, which will be left without a training venue when construction begins on a $190 million "bubble stadium" on Edwin Flack Field, want to get their hands on Olympic Park.

The 20,000-seat bubble stadium for rugby league team Melbourne Storm and growing soccer club Melbourne Victory will start to take shape later this year.

The Magpies will have to train further away, at Gosch's Paddock, during the construction works.

They are confident of moving to Olympic Park when the Storm and Victory move into their new home by the end of 2009.

The Oval, opposite the Lexus Centre and next to Rod Laver Arena, is also an option for Mick Malthouse's men.

Complicating the battle is Collingwood president and Channel 9 chief Eddie McGuire, who is also on the Athletics Australia board.

The new bubble stadium will also house the Melbourne Football Club administration. The Demons hope to join Collingwood as training co-tenants at a vacated Olympic Park.

The long-suffering South Melbourne Supporters' Club, desperate to see their old Lakeside Oval revived, are also throwing their weight behind an AV move to Bob Jane Stadium.

The Government faces an uphill climb to please all parties.

It has commissioned a study into the move's feasibility, and a report is due next month.

But Mr Madden played down the Swan St battle.

"There's plenty of room in the precinct for all the partners," he said.

"It's becoming a precinct of elite stadiums and events, but it's whether that is what athletics needs, given school carnivals form the vast majority of people who use it. Do they want a cumbersome stadium, which is presently the case, or do they want to position themselves differently?

"At the moment, the stadiums down there don't work for athletics.

"They don't do justice to the needs of the athletes or the patrons."

AV chief executive Nick Honey insisted it wanted to stay at Olympic Park.

"Unless there's a demonstrably better offer, there's no reason whatsoever why we would want to leave," Mr Honey said.

"We are the custodians of the sport in this state and we are pretty happy where we are."

Olympic Park was built as a centre for athletics, swimming and cycling for the 1956 Olympics.

Sam Edmund
Herald Sun


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