THE Mildura South Regional Sporting Precinct (MSRSP) $34.3 million Stage 1 project officially reached completion at the end of July and now the Mildura Rural City Council (MRCC) is about to put out tenders seeking contractors to undertake the construction of the $10 million Stage 2 facilities.

With the official launch of Stage 1 having to be delayed due to COVID restrictions, the MRCC held a media briefing via zoom to update the status of the venue.

The MSRSP is a key pillar of Council’s Mildura Future Ready strategy which in part, aims to lower the level of social disadvantage in the Sunraysia community through increased employment and participation opportunities the sporting precinct will provide, as well as a major economic stimulus.
MRCC acting CEO Martin Hawson explained how the project had reached a milestone in terms of the ‘practical completion’ of Stage 1 at the end of July.

“That was a major milestone and marked the completion of all of the Stage 1 work – everything that was in the contract, everything that was required by our funding partners was completed,” Mr Hawson said.

“This was the biggest infrastructure project that Council has ever taken on and so if you expected the unexpected, you weren’t disappointed – it certainly had its challenges.

“To come in within the budget that was set was an achievement and there were some increases in cost along the way with increases in the scope of works and so we had to absorb some pretty significant contingencies along the way.

“I think it was very well executed and a lot of the credit for that goes to Kate Henschke, our manager of Leisure and Cultural Services, who did a power of work to get this project across the line.

“Together with her team including Chelsea Pettinau, Council’s Development and Delivery Officer for Major Projects, who was a key player, living and breathing this for more than two years together with our project managers. We had no less than 86 Project Control group meetings during the course of the project.”

Mr Hawson said that when Council commenced ‘the journey’ in October 2019, they had a certain scope of works.

“During that journey, it actually expanded, because we had been able to get additional funding along the way and that explains why the budget went up, enabling us to fit more into the plans,” he said.

“The Government funds you for a certain portion of the project, but that didn’t prevent us from applying for further funding.

“This for example allowed for the addition of cricket which came on-board after the first tranche of funding and enabled us to enhance the lights, include cricket wickets and the association asked for cricket nets to be included.

“That was on top of the original scope of works. The other major component that was added was the outdoor netball courts. They haven’t actually been built yet, but they certainly attracted significant funding not only through Government, but also from local contributions including from Sunraysia Netball.”

MSRSP Precinct manager Don Harley said that the complex’s premier AFL standard oval will be able to host some high-level AFL competition games.

“The hope is that in the future we will be able to play some high-level AFL games in Mildura and when the oval is developed further, it will also have the capacity to play cricket matches as well,” he said.

“There are essentially three different definitions of AFL competitions.

“There are exhibition games, which are organised ‘adhoc’ between different clubs.

“Then there is the JLT − Marsh series, which has replaced the pre-season competition previously known as the Wizard Cup and then there is obviously the AFL home and away series.

“As for which one we can expect to deliver, the advocacy is underway and we have been pitching toward potentially delivering a JLT competition that is a sanctioned pre-season competition.

“Would we be in-line for a home and away fixture down the track? At this stage it’s not really possible to say.

“But certainly the advocacy has been around the JLT competition and we would love to be able to deliver that whether it’s this year or next. That would be a really great result for the region.”

Mr Hawson said that in regard to attracting other sporting events to Mildura any opportunity is on the table.

“The reality is that this region has been starved of the capacity to attract high level games and opportunities that arise when you have a facility like this,” he said.

“The AFL camps that are run and netball training camps and even providing space for soccer which could be done on the oval with some reconfiguration and so anything is on the cards and we will be eager to look at whatever we can secure.”

The indoor stadium includes six courts that have the capacity to host basketball and netball as a minimum and four of the courts have lines market for volley ball competition and a further two have been configured to allow badminton to be played.

The upstairs area of the stadium is equally as impressive, with three function room areas. Outside of COVID distancing restrictions, the three facilities combined can host a standing capacity of 380 people.

Already, since the facility has been usable, South Mildura Football Club has held training nights with its senior team being able to use the premier oval.

Their junior teams also had a night training session, which provided a good opportunity to see the functionality of the oval’s 500 lux-lighting levels.

Community netballers have also used the indoor courts and there were plans for volleyball to use the facility prior to the lockdown.

Mr Harley said that importantly, the precinct has been able to form some great partnerships with a number of different peak sporting bodies.

“This will see us very much in-the-frame to be able to deliver a number of high profile events,” he said.

“The most recent of these, is an upcoming WNBL partnership with the Bendigo Spirit, which will deliver a pre-season competition week. This will have built into it not only the playing of some trial games, but also some visitations of Bendigo elite athletes across a range of different areas of the municipality. And at this stage the plan is for them to return in December for a home and away game to be telecast on Kayo sports and across Foxtel, which will be a really good opportunity for some exposure and national coverage of the new facilities which we are really excited about as well.”

Mr Harley said that when the facility is operating at capacity he estimates up to 200,000 visitations per year to the precinct.