Multi-million dollar fields turn village into sporting mecca
WHILE the opening of the multi-million dollar Wollongbar sports fields can give the village the tag of sporting mecca in the region, it also has given plenty of locals a sporting chance of owning their dream home.
Federal Member for Page, Kevin Hogan, was joined by NSW Parliamentary Secretary for Northern NSW, Ben Franklin, and Ballina Shire's mayor, Cr David Wright in unveiling the plaque to open the fields yesterday.
It was Mr Hogan who said he hadn't seen sporting fields of similar size and quality in the region, and his political patch has taken him from the northern suburbs of Coffs Harbour through Lismore and into Ballina Shire.
President of the Alstonville Tennis Club, Steve Rigby, didn't dismiss Mr Hogan's statement as political hyperbole, but agreed the fields had the potential to attract large regional competitions.
"It's fabulous we have finally got them,” he said.
In the same vein as the catchcry from the movie Field of Dreams, "build it and they will come”, he said the new facilities would likely lead to an increase in membership in the tennis club, and reinvigorate netball on the Plateau.
The project to build the fields began in the late 1980s.
Ballina Shire Council later purchased land from a developer who wanted to convert the area into a residential development.
But Ballina Shire's mayor Cr David Wright, told the gathering at the opening that the Alstonville-Wollongbar development buffer zone "held tight” and the land was sold to council for about $1.5m.
The Federal Government, through Mr Hogan's predecessor Janelle Saffin, came on board with a $4.5m grant, the deal being that council had to provide subsidies for housing blocks in the nearby new estate.
Council's general manager, Paul Hickey, said 96 blocks in the Plateau Dr estate were subsidised to the tune of $25,000 each because of that arrangement.
Council chipped in a further $2.5m and the State Government added $25,000 to see the sporting complex built.
There are two rugby fields, four netball courts and six tennis courts, with the development application for a skatepark currently being worked on.
Wollongbar-Alstonville Rugby Club stalwart, Howard Atkinson, said the council deserved a "pat on the back” for its vision in building the sporting complex.
The full-time whistle hasn't yet sounded on the sporting development, as some work on the grounds and drainage is yet to be completed, while the rugby club is working on plans to build a clubhouse.
Mayor Wright did acknowledge the fields were built on a hill, so the toss may be important to the competing captains as, just as at the opening, the wind will be a factor for all the sports.