There has been much angst expressed at Ku-ring-gai Council forums and meetings about the grandstand project. Sure there is a need to improve the facilities at the ground but the proposal is over the top. The cost of the proposed 300 seat grandstand plus café, change rooms, offices, treatment rooms, corporate and media facilities has gone beyond the estimate obtained in August 2022 of $5.5 million. A recent quote obtained by Council was $7.76 million. The proponent, the Northern Suburbs Football Association (NSFA) thinks the $7.7 million figure is overly conservative, but $5.5 million is still enormous!
At the council meeting on 28 July a detailed debate occurred over whether council should proceed with a Heads of Agreement and accept the risks, costs and benefits. The motion put before the meeting noted that the project may not be financially feasible but is driven by ‘economic, social and environmental value offered to the community’. This is an odd statement as the community has objected vociferously about the social impacts in particular (increased traffic, noise, bushfire risk).
The NFSA is bearing the construction and operating costs. They were advised that two grants were approved, one a Female Friendly Community Sports Grant for $500,000 and the other from Multi-Sport Community Facility Fund for $3.6 million. So the NSFA is fronting up at least $1.4 million.
There are still several concerns with this ambitious project:
- The cost looks likely to be higher than covered by funding.
- As pointed out by Cedric Spencer in a motion presented to the August council meeting, it is not clear that the grant applications had council’s consent. This is a prerequisite to grant approval.
- Council will seek assurance that a grant that benefits football, is not inconsistent with the key objectives of the Multi-Sport Community Facility Fund.
- The long-term master planning for NTRA when it was developed in 2011 never contemplated a facility of the scale and nature proposed by NSFA. It was a multi-year project funded from development contributions, general revenue and a special rate variation levied on all residents of Ku-ring-gai. The project cost some $30 million. It was not carried out for the benefit of one dominant sporting group which is what it would become with the implementation of the grandstand proposal. The NSFA would be the primary users of this site at the expense of all other users.
- There is conflicting information about the longer term plans for the site in reference to the amount of usage and the traffic that would be generated. It seems a very expensive project if, as declared by the NSFA, the usage of the three fields is not going to increase.
- There are rumours that there are intentions to convert one or more of the other two playing fields to synthetic turf, which would be strongly opposed.