Anthony Albanese, centre, with, from left, Mayor Richie Williamson, Member for Page Janelle Saffin and Grafton Hockey Club president Bruce Carle.
Anthony Albanese, centre, with, from left, Mayor Richie Williamson, Member for Page Janelle Saffin and Grafton Hockey Club president Bruce Carle.

$1.8 million boost for sport

EVERY sport that uses the Fisher Park sports complex in Grafton will benefit from the $1.8 million in funding the Federal Minister for Infrastructure, Regional Development and Local Government, Anthony Albanese, announced yesterday.

Mr Albanese toured the complex yesterday morning to announce the Government had approved the Clarence Valley Council project to redevelop the park that includes hockey and cricket fields, an AFL ground and the Grafton City tennis complex.

The total cost of the project, estimated at $2.6mil, will provide a new water-based hockey field, a new pavilion that will be used by cricket, AFL and tennis, new hard-court tennis courts and lighting, re-surfacing and enlarging Ellem Oval and doubling the number of practice wickets to four.

Grafton tennis coach Michael Beckman said some of the money will be used to create seven hard-court surfaces to replace the ageing clay surfaces at the Grafton City Club, as well as to upgrade the lighting.

The tennis club, Clarence River Cricket Association (CRCA) and Grafton Tigers AFL Club will all benefit from the new pavilion to be built on the Prince Street side of the ground.

CRCA secretary Jason Thompson said the two-storey structure would include club rooms and a canteen on the ground floor and a viewing platform for cricket, AFL and tennis upstairs.

As well, the surface of Ellem Oval would be enlarged to make it a full-size AFL ground. This would mean putting the ground out of action for a season while the surface is levelled.

Mr Albanese said the project will provide short-term and long-term benefits for the community.

“It will create over 200 jobs and see the upgrade of the facilities across the wide range of sports: hockey, cricket, Australian Rules, tennis. All of these facilities will be upgraded,” Mr Albanese said.

“It will create jobs in the short term, but make this good facility into a great facility for people who live in Grafton and the Clarence region.

“This is a priority under the Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program. The great thing about this program is that it is local communities determining priorities.”

Federal Member for Page Janelle Saffin downplayed the pre-election timing of the announcement, pointing out that the project has been a long time in planning.

“This is an example of the national government working in partnership with local council,” Ms Saffin said.

“I’ve walked around here with Bruce (Grafton Men’s Hockey president Bruce Carle); he showed me their dreams, outlined them to me and I thought, ‘don’t get your hopes up too much on this, but we’ll give it a go’ and that’s what’s happened. The project speaks for itself. It ticks all the boxes at a local level.

“It’s not just an investment in a sporting field, it’s an investment in a culture, in a way of life.”

Clarence Valley mayor Richie Williamson said the latest announcement brought the amount of funding received from this program to $4 million.

“The funding has been used in local government projects right across the local government area, from footpaths to sporting facili– ties,” he said.

“The total cost of this project is $2.6 million. We’ll see a new hockey surface next door, we’ll see a new pavilion built on the other side of Ellem Oval, we’ll see upgrades to every sport that uses this precinct.

Cr Williamson said the Council and Federal Government had worked closely to get this project up, and that had delivered $4 million worth of work on time and on budget.

“The next step in the project is to get the concept plans ready to go. That will be done and we’ll be letting contracts as soon as possible so we can deliver for the users.”

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