Plans for $9m indoor centre

PLANS to build a multi-million dollar sports and events centre in Ballina are progressing, with hopes that it might be finished before the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.

It could become a training hub for athletes and sporting teams from around the world during the Games.

The Ballina Shire Council was considering building a $28 million centre at landon Gallans Road.

However, the council recently agreed to consider a smaller, $9 million centre that would be built alongside the Seagulls rugby league ground at Kingsford Smith Park.

It would have two indoor courts, a gymnasium, mezzanine and catered function rooms, and would fit more than 1200 people.

North Coast Academy of Sport executive director John Kincade said such a centre would be a great asset.

"Any (indoor sports) facility in the region is going to assist our sports programs," he said.

"Netball and basketball are two of the sports that would definitely utilise that sort of premises."

But financing a sports and event centre is the council's biggest hurdle.

No funding has been identified in the council's long-term financial plans.

Staff members, in a report to councillors, admitted that "grants, developer contributions, asset sales, loans, increased rate income, or a combination of all or any of these will be needed to bring the project to fruition".

But if the project does progress, it could turn the Kingsford Smith Park area into a sporting and cultural precinct.

Already the area features a new synthetic hockey field, rugby league grounds, cricket ovals and netball courts, and has easy access to the swimming pool.

"Mention has also been made of the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, with such a precinct potentially providing training and accommodation for countries and / or teams," the council report says.

Kincade agreed that an indoor sports centre would attract more competition to the region.

"In a regional context some of our athletes are not exposed to the level of competition that they would be able to experience if they lived in Sydney or Brisbane," he said.

"These sorts of facilities will attract major teams, competitions and tournaments.

"Therefore our athletes get the exposure at a higher level that they need if they are going to go on and rep-resent their state or country."

The council's general manager, Paul Hickey, has been authorised to start negotiations with the Crown Lands department and the Ballina Seagulls Rugby League Club regarding the proposed use of Kingsford Smith Park.

Further reports will then be prepared for the councillors.

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