COFFS Harbour’s athletics community has come out in support of Bruce Barnier Oval as the preferred site for the future Regional Athletics Centre, following recent Council debate over two possible sites for the complex.
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Coffs Harbour City councillors last month criticised Council staff for recommending York Street Oval as the preferred site for the future Regional Athletics Centre, with several councillors deeming this site unsuitable for the proposed complex due to its location within a residential area and its distance from Council’s existing sports precinct along Stadium Drive.
The Regional Athletics Centre is proposed to contain a 400 metre eight-lane all weather synthetic-surfaced track, long jump pits, shot put circles, pole vault, javelin, high jump, and combined discus/hammer facilities, a warm up track, amenities building, kiosk, change areas, spectator area and a car park.
Coffs Harbour Athletics Community spokesperson Nicola Johnstone said the issue of choosing a suitable site for the proposed new centre had a long history, with the local athletics community campaigning to establish a new Regional Athletics Centre in Coffs Harbour for around twenty years.
“There’s been a lot of effort over a long period of time to just secure a site so that we can actually then progress to seeking grant funding and have something established here for the athletics community,” Ms Johnstone confirmed to News Of The Area.
“We’ve been advocating for a long time and not getting very far quickly.”
With Council currently seeking submissions from the public on its preferred site for the new complex, Ms Johnstone said it was important that the public knew the athletics community’s position on the issue.
“There’s a perception that an athletics centre is for Little Athletics, but it’s not, it’s much more than that, it’s for the entire community, it’s for other sporting teams, it’s for elite athletes, triathletes, walkers, and wheelchair athletes who have nothing, they literally cannot train on grass and it’s not safe on roads,” Ms Johnstone stressed.
Ms Johnstone said if the public looked at Council’s recent report on the proposed site for the centre, they would come to the conclusion that the athletes had, that the best site for the new centre is at Bruce Barnier Oval within Coffs Coast Sport and Leisure Park along Stadium Drive.
“It’s a better fit,” Ms Johnstone confirmed.
“We can offer another mini stadium for other sports, we can fit hockey, soccer, two touch fields in the middle, so there are so many benefits to having it at that sports precinct.”
Ms Johnstone disagreed with Council staff’s recommendation that York Street Oval was the best location for the Regional Athletics Centre, and said there were alot of constraints associated with that site.
“I know Council are really keen for us to be at York Street, but there are major traffic issues and parking issues,” Nicola said.
“That area should really ideally be green space and a park, and it’s Northern Storm’s football home ground until they can move to Moonee and that’s not able to happen until they get funding which has been identified by Council for 2032.”
According to Ms Johnstone, current athletics training facilities in the region are not ideal, and the local athletics community desperately needed a full synthetic track and field facility in the near future.
“At the moment we have a grass track for six months of the year at Toormina which is used in summer, and in winter a four-lane track is marked out at Bray Street,” she said.
“We’ve got basic grass facilities year round, and one is shared with soccer which can create a lot of issues in terms of divets and sprained ankles, and the other is quite basic.
“It’s not ideal that we don’t have a designated facility, particularly for wheelchair athletes who can’t train on grass.”
Nicola said the local athletics community was supportive of the option of sharing the Bruce Barnier Oval site with the proposed new $12.5 million Regional Indoor Sports Centre, which Council recently recommended as the preferred site for the future indoor sports centre.
“We are very supportive of that, it’s a great fit,” Nicola said.
“We’d be more than happy to share with the Indoor Centre on that location.”
Public submissions are now being welcomed by Council on its Regional Athletics Centre Site Selection Report on Council’s website at https://haveyoursay.coffsharbour.nsw.gov.au/.
By Emma DARBIN