Member for Morwell Russell Northe is leading the charge to pump much-needed funds into the Latrobe City Sports & Entertainment Centre), which would transform the facility into a football centre of excellence capable of attracting elite level competition.
Despite a masterplan to improve the stadium precinct being commissioned, developed and approved by Latrobe City Council in 2019, Mr Northe believes more progress has to be made towards completing the redevelopment as the region eyes off being a host venue of the upcoming 2023 Women’s World Cup.
He described the details behind this redevelopment project and why it is urgent funding is secured as quickly as possible.
“Costings have been done where we know around $13 million is required to redevelop this precinct into a football centre of excellence and there is some urgency attached this as I believe that if we could have a modern redeveloped site here, there is the ability to attract practice games and even be a host through the 2023 Women’s World Cup.
“Football Victoria have very clearly said to me that if this plan was funded we could have the second best football stadium in Victoria and that is precisely what I want to see, which would obviously give us more opportunity to host nations and games as part of that tournament.
“I just think this is a massive opportunity that shouldn’t be missed, we have the masterplan ready to go, we know what is required to develop the site, and all we simply need now is minimal funding from all levels of government to make this happen.
Currently two years removed from the commissioning of the masterplan, Mr Northe believes progress in its execution has been slow.
“There are some items of the masterplan that have been advanced which is good, but there are still a plethora of items that we need funding for – that goes all the way to the grandstand, to the pitch itself and that facilities that are here at the moment,” he said.
“In the past we have still been able to attract games of football and other events at this precinct, but that gets harder when you have a relatively low standard of facilities and playing surface, and the only way we can remediate that is to find funding and transform this into a football centre of excellence as marked out by the masterplan.”
The redevelopment of this facility would be pivotal to revitalising the game in the region, with president of its current custodians Falcons 2000 Tony Salvatore saying it is time the stadium received a much needed upgrade.
“We have spent quite a few years with the grand plan and now it is time for that to come into fruition – it is a stadium that is too big just for the one club, obviously we love the history of the club and there no other club in Australia with history quite like Falcons, but we would be delighted with the redevelopment,” he said.
“While work has been done, through state government, council and the clubs, to start improving the facility, it is still run down and needs to be addressed because there are health and safety issues and concerns for players, staff and spectators – so despite all its great history we believe it is time for a new era.”
He said the potential of hosting elite level football at the stadium would be a massive boost for not only the club but region as a whole.
“It (elite level football) is what everyone would dream about, when we had the best football in our backyard people would come and now if we were a host venue for these A-League games or the Women’s World Cup it would just improve the sport,” he said.
“It would motivate our community to participate at a much higher level and would inspire someone to want to be an elite champion in the sport.
“You can’t buy that and is something we would all love to see come out of this area and if you look at the history of Latrobe Valley football it was probably Falcons that inspired some of these players that played A League for many years – so to me the big picture is priceless.”
In terms of getting the wheels in motion, Mr Northe detailed his correspondence with state and federal government regarding this issue.
“I have formally written to the Sport and Recreation Ministers at state and federal level and haven’t received a reply at this point in time,” he said.
“Time is of the essence if we are to go hard and try and attract an event through the 2023 Women’s World Cup, we can’t wait until next year’s budget or the following year’s budget or election commitments, what we really need now is the state and federal governments to come on board and talk with council about this unique opportunity.”
A state government spokesperson offered this response to Mr Northe’s calls for funding.
“We welcome Mr Northe’s submission and it will be considered as part of the usual budget process,” the spokesperson said.