Hands Oval won't get AFL games in 2015
The AFL has ruled out playing a pre-season fixture at Hands Oval until the outdated changerooms at the ground are upgraded.
The decision comes after Bunbury was overlooked for a NAB Challenge game for the fourth consecutive year, the AFL instead electing to host a pre-season fixture between West Coast and Carlton at Rushton Park in Mandurah.
Last year Hands Oval underwent a $2.8 million upgrade to its turf and lighting in stage one of a three part redevelopment of the ground.
New changerooms, replacing those built in the 1950s, form the cornerstone of stage two but as yet no completion date has been set and it does not appear in Bunbury City Council’s forward estimates.
Mayor Gary Brennan said the AFL ruling out Hands Oval until upgrades were complete did not warrant a new focus on the project.
“The upgrades are currently not identified for funding in the immediate future, however should external funding become available council may consider this during budget deliberations, ” he said.
West Coast Eagles chief executive Trevor Nisbett, who applied to play a NAB Challenge game at Hands Oval next year, said he remained hopeful of bringing AFL football back to the South West but could do nothing until the upgrades were completed.
“The AFL and WA Football Commission have done inspections of Hands Oval and the surface is fantastic but the changerooms and some other facilities don’t meet minimum standards,” he said.
“The South West Football League and the City of Bunbury are aware of the issue and now it is just a matter of finance.
“Hopefully the work happens sooner rather than later because we are still keen to play a regular fixture down in Bunbury.”
SWFL general manager John Vidos said the AFL was “putting the cart before the horse” and revenue raised from AFL preseason games could be put towards upgrades.
“We had AFL games here in 2009 and 2011 in the exact same changing rooms and since then the turf has been upgraded, yet now, all of a sudden the ground doesn’t meet requirements, ” Mr Vidos said.
“I think it is unrealistic to expect that regional centres will meet all of the standards enjoyed by AFL clubs in metro areas.”
“We are hopeful that the development of stage two will be moved forward, but at this point there is no commitment and no timeline for when work will commence – it could be 10 years from now.”
AFL Media Relations manager Patrick Keane said the league had not ruled a line through Hands Oval and it was prepared to consider the venue from 2016 pending completion of planned work.
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