WORK IN PROGRESS: Works have begun at Merbein’s Kenny Park to replace the change room facilities that were effectively destroyed in the November 2016 storms. Pictured at the site are Merbein South Cricket Club vice-president Marlon Fraser, Merbein Football and Netball Club President Toney Hurley, Mildura Rural City Councillor for Recreation and Sport, Glenn Milne, and Merbein South Cricket Club social co-ordinator Nicole Apthorpe. Photo: PAUL MENSCH

By MITCH RODD

EARTHWORKS are now being laid to set the foundations for the long-awaited re-build of the change room facilities at Merbein’s Kenny Park.

The home of the Magpies in the Sunraysia Football and Netball League (SFNL) was devastated in the storms of November 2016, effectively destroying the existing change rooms and forcing players to utilise a small portable building.

Now, almost two years to the day since the incident, the ground work is under way to build what would be arguably the best and most modern sporting facilities in the region.

The new facilities, which gained over $500,000 through various grants, are set to be completed in mid-March 2019, a few weeks prior to the new SFNL season. The building will not only include change rooms for the home and visiting football sides, but will also incorporate dedicated change rooms for both home and visiting netball sides, dedicated umpires’ rooms, trainers facilities for both home and visiting sides, a kiosk, public toilets, including an all-access public toilet and a disabled car parking spot.

The project is a collaboration between Mildura Rural City Council, AFL Victoria, the Merbein Football and Netball Club, the SFNL, the Merbein South Cricket Club, who use both Kenny Park and Chaffey Park as home bases, and the Merbein community. The Victorian Government also injected $500,000 into the project through its 2018-2019 Female Friendly Facilities Fund, while the AFL added another $75,000.

Merbein Football and Netball Club president, Toney Hurley, said he was “very excited” to see the earthworks commencing.

“It’s definitely a step in the right direction,” he said.

“It’s been nearly two years to the day since the storm, and it’s fantastic for us to drive up here today and see progress. It will definitely be on track, from what I gather, for round one next year.

“It’s the start of a new era for this football/netball club, and by bringing everything up to this end (netball facilities end) of the oval, it ties football, netball and social rooms into one end of the precinct which is going to be beneficial for the club.”

Councillor for Recreation and Sport, Glenn Milne, said plans had not been without its tensions, but all parties were happy to see the project get under way.

“We’ve got a plan now that everybody is happy with, and of course the community is going to be excited about it,” Cr Milne said.

“It makes a real change to a small community. You see a new building like this that is very much central to everything they do… Carols by Candlelight down here, sporting facilities, bowling, all the rest of it, and when people come down and see it, it breathes new life into the community.”

See next week’s edition of the Mildura Weekly for how the facilities have the potential to turn the Merbein Football Netball Club into an SFNL ‘powerhouse’.