Boutique Ballarat stadium still a possibility

Austadiums   |  Sunday 5th February 2012

Cricket and AFL could join forces to develop a boutique sporting stadium in Ballarat, with a capacity of up to 20,000.

It's approximately one year since the Baillieu Government abandoned previous Brumby Government plans to create a $30 million venue capable of hosting AFL matches. However with the involvement of Cricket, the plan could not only once again be reality, but be bigger than the original proposal.

The Herald Sun reported one model has forecast a $70 million revamp of Ballarat's Eureka Stadium that could see the venue seat 7,000-10,000 fans with standing room for a further 10,000 patrons. The venue would host up to four AFL games a season featuring North Melbourne as well as first-class cricket matches.

The venue would be the new state cricket centre for Cricket Victoria, which lost the proposed Shane Warne Centre of Excellence at Junction Oval when Ted Baillieu came to office in late 2010.

While all parties were reluctant to discuss the plans, a State Government source yesterday confirmed preliminary talks were under way.

"There's no definite decision been made and it's only in the early stages, but there are discussions happening," the source said.

It is believed that funding could be shared between the Federal and Victorian governments, as well as support from the Ballarat City Council, the AFL and various cricket bodies.

The AFL would not comment on the discussions, but it is known that the addition of cricket has made the plan more palatable.

Cricket Victoria chief executive Tony Dodemaide admitted that a number of different proposals were being explored.

"I'm not prepared to talk about specifics, but we are certainly interested in looking at a number of different concepts," Dodemaide said.

"We are probably the biggest state, if not one of the top two, and we are the only one in Australia that doesn't have its own designated facility.

"Besides the MCG, we don't have a compliant ground in Victoria that we can readily snap our fingers and play a first-class game at."

North Melbourne chief executive Eugene Arocca said Ballarat loomed as a crucial factor in the club's future success.

The Kangaroos have led the way in trying to secure a closer relationship with Ballarat and the western Victoria region.

"I can't comment on these plans. However, I can say the North Melbourne Football Club believes a regional engagement to this club is critical to our long-term strategies," Arocca said.

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