Public cash to save Victoria Park

Austadiums   |  Thursday 8th December 2005

Taxpayers will help bail out Collingwood Football Club after it agreed to pay millions of dollars to repair its spiritual home of Victoria Park.

Cashed-up Collingwood is believed to have agreed to pay more than $2 million to restore the historic ground, which has been locked up and in a state of disrepair since the Pies moved out in March.

The move comes after Yarra City Council threatened to take Collingwood to court and sue the club for $10 million over damage caused to the 120-year-old ground.

It's believed the deal was stitched up after the State Government agreed to cover more than $1 million of the costs, taking the rescue package to more than $3 million.

The taxpayer-backed free kick came despite Collingwood declaring a record fourth consecutive profit of $2 million. It's believed the AFL will also cover some of the costs.

The breakthrough came after eight months of bitter negotiations, in which former mayor Kay Meadows accused Collingwood of robbing its community by stripping assets and leaving the ground in such a state of disrepair it could not be used.

The ground, adored by Magpie fans and considered the most formidable in Melbourne, has not seen a Collingwood game since 1999, but was still the club's training ground until this year.

The Herald Sun has been told the money will be used to:

REMOVE most of the high walls.

UPGRADE the change rooms for the Fitzroy Reds, an amateur team.

RESTORE the historic Ryder Stand undercroft.

ESTABLISH open parkland for use by residents.

It's believed the parties are yet to sign the deal, but only small differences remain.

Plans were being made by the Government and Collingwood to announce the deal next year and officials were furious when details were leaked.

Collingwood president Eddie McGuire's refused to comment.

Yarra CEO Lydia Wilson said nothing had been finalised, but the council was optimistic.

Government spokesman Brent Hooley said the deal was a long way from complete, but confirmed the Government had set aside money for the upgrading of suburban footy grounds.

The row between the council and Collingwood erupted in March after Collingwood moved out and took up residence at the Lexus Centre.

Since then, the ground has been locked up and further damaged by vandals who knocked holes in the walls and left piles of rubbish behind.

Victoria Park

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