Saints to quit Moorabbin

Austadiums   |  Wednesday 30th May 2007

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St Kilda Football Club has decided to walk out of its 42-year home at Moorabbin after another breakdown with the local council over plans to redevelop the precinct.

Saints chief executive Archie Fraser yesterday told the Herald Sun a proposed $10.5 million revamp of Moorabbin would be abandoned.

"We're gone, we're out of here," Fraser said.

"This is not about an article to get some press to patch it up, this is over.

"And, in all reality, it is not our decision. We are the victims of a council backdown.

"It's a tragic day."

St Kilda will now assess new bases, with options in City of Port Phillip, believed to be TEAC Oval in Port Melbourne, and City of Casey (Casey Fields in Cranbourne) to be considered.

"Tomorrow we clean the whiteboard and we will work towards getting the guys into a world-class facility by the start of 2009," Fraser said.

"It will probably be easier because we will find a willing partner. We will cast the web wide and we will still make it happen, make no question about that."

The $10.5 million upgrade of the Saints' Moorabbin base, which was to have provided for community involvement, was to have been footed by the AFL ($2.55 million), the State Government ($3.45 million), Kingston Council ($2.5 million) and the Saints ($2 million).

St Kilda believes the contributions from the AFL and State Government are transportable.

AFL major projects manager Simon Gorr, who has worked closely on the Moorabbin redevelopment plans, said he supported the Saints.

"We're very disappointed the deal, as everyone understood it, has fallen over," Gorr said.

"Everyone has put in an enormous amount of work, including officers from the council, St Kilda footy club, ourselves and the State Government. We certainly support St Kilda's view that this is the right call for them."

The Moorabbin redevelopment was always dependent on City of Kingston approving the transfer of the club's 83 poker machines about 200m from Linton St to busy South Rd.

In a meeting on Monday night, the council refused to endorse the pokies transfer, instead referring the matter to the Victorian Commission for Gaming Regulation, a procedural requirement St Kilda will not pursue.

The council resoundingly voted to "strongly support a reduction in the number of gaming machines".

Had the transfer been approved, St Kilda would have paid the council $2.1 million for land on South Rd, which would have been used for a new $6 million social club base and as security to ensure the $10.5 million redevelopment proceeded.

"The club has met all council process requirements, only for the council to make a political decision with respect to gaming machine numbers," Fraser said.

"We've been here since '65, we were based here when we won the premiership (1966), but last night was the last straw.

"The (St Kilda) board has been more than tolerant and we have been patient to the nth degree in trying to pull this thing off. This council is too difficult to work with and we have no choice."

Fraser said the Saints had wasted more than $300,000 preparing for the Moorabbin redevelopment.

"The deal has been scuttled, completely scuttled, by the council as of last night," said Fraser, who requested official council responses on the pokies transfer in November.

"We have been extremely patient all the way through here, but they have made a statement that they don't want to support us in the fundamental thing that underpins the whole economics of this.

"We have had four years of working through this with council."

City of Kingston chief executive officer John Nevins did not return the Herald Sun's calls.

Thirty years remains on the Saints' lease at Moorabbin, which was used as an VFL-AFL venue in 254 matches between 1965-92.

"We won't be walking away from the lease. We will maintain our social club/gaming venue and train here maybe once a month," Fraser said.

"Unfortunately, it means there will be a separation in the history of the St Kilda Football Club."

Damian Barrett
Herald Sun
 

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