AWAY WE GO! The first sod has been turned on the $36.5million Mildura South Regional Sporting Precinct, with work expected to be completed over the next 18 months. On hand to do the honours was Mildura Mayor Simon Clemence, councillor Glenn Milne, Federal Member for Mallee Dr Anne Webster, councillor Mark Eckel, Mildura deputy Mayor Jason Modica and councillor Helen Healy. Photo: PAUL MENSCH

By VINNIE RODI

THE first sod has been turned on the $36.5million Mildura South Regional Sporting Precinct (MSRSP) project, and construction will begin soon on the long-awaited indoor sporting complex.

Construction of the $29.979million first stage of the MSRSP is expected to take 18 months, with the works to be led by Commercial Industrial Construction Group (CICG). The company was awarded the tender at last week’s Ordinary Council Meeting.

As it stands, the first stage of the MSRSP will be funded by all three tiers of government, with Council contributing $9.48m; the Federal Government $17.5m through its Building Better Regions Fund and the Victorian Government $3m through its Better Indoor Stadium Fund.

“Work will commence as soon as builders can get their program organised, and I know they’re already starting some clearing works,” Mildura Rural City Council general manager Community, Martin Hawson, said.

The first stage of the build will include a six-court indoor stadium, premier AFL standard sporting oval, a cafe-kiosk, changing rooms, spectator seats, function and social rooms along with appropriate landscaping.

Additional components, including a turf wicket on the main oval, tower upgrades to the main oval for lighting, a secondary fence for the main oval, a bigger pavilion, an upgraded roof to accommodate solar power, an additional 2.8m space in the Court Hall and an allowance of way-finding signage will also be completed.

Mr Hawson confirmed that the service road adjacent to the site would effectively become “diminished”, with access to the MSRSP to come from Deakin Avenue.

“A turning lane will be installed on Deakin Avenue, allowing traffic to turn into the site… we haven’t determined fully what we do with this existing service road,” he said.

Mr Hawson confirmed that Council would continue to seek the additional $10m needed to complete the MSRSP, which would trigger either a revised scope to the project, or additional stages.

“If we’re fortunate enough to get some more funding, than that will obviously impact on the build and the stages will be increased,” he said. “The second stage of the project is really about a second oval, participation in women’s and junior sport, giving us more flexibility and outdoor netball.”

The ideal scenario for Council is that the Victorian Government, which has contributed just 10 percent of the funds so far, comes up with the required $10m in the 2020/21 Budget, allowing Council to complete the project in one go.

This week’s sod turning was attended by numerous stakeholders, including user groups, Councillors and Council staff, Federal Member for Mallee Dr Anne Webster, the appointed builders and architects.

Mildura Mayor Simon Clemence described the sod turning as “a milestone event” for Mildura.

“This is the biggest infrastructure build Mildura Rural City Council has ever undertaken,” he said. “For a remote country town… it’s actually quite impressive.”

Cr Clemence thanked both the Federal and Victorian Governments for their contribution, while reiterating moves to secure the remaining funds needed to complete the full complex.

He also reflected on the two-year period it had taken to get the MSRSP to this point.

“A little over two years ago we started a project called Mildura Future Ready…,” Cr Clemence said. “In that time we’ve already secured $20m in funding, and that is really quite remarkable.

“It’s a testament to the fact that the Mildura Future Ready strategy is working… we still have three projects to go, and we will continue to work very hard on those projects.”

Dr Webster, meanwhile, spoke about the significance of the project for the region.

“This will raise the expectations of our sportspeople, and I’m very excited by the collaboration necessary between the sporting clubs, their input to Council, and the whole collaborative process,” she said.