East West Link may cause club losses

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Melbourne’s proposed East West link is set to cause a loss of seven sporting ovals at Royal Park.  

To make way for the 18km motorway and tunnel that will connect the western suburbs to the Eastern Freeway, 10 sporting clubs will have to find new homes.

Fortunately, the state government has provided a $15 million package for sporting clubs and recreation facilities in Royal Park and Princes Park, so they can be upgraded as quick as possible, minimising damage to the clubs.

However, while the Youlden-Parkville Cricket Club senior teams won’t have to move, their oval remaining untouched, President Paul Sinclair said they’re still likely to be affected, with less ovals and more teams fighting for the tenure.

“The East West tunnel basically means there’s less space, less sporting ovals, while demand for the ovals is going up,” said Paul.

“So for us, our oval isn’t directly affected, but the thing we’re worried about is increasingly within the city of Melbourne and the suburbs around it, everyone’s competing for limited open space and ovals, particularly turf wickets. 

“So how do we try and make sure our club has security of tenure over the ground?” said the president.

Paul explained Royal Park is over 170 hectares big and split into several sections.

“We’re in Royal Park north, and then there’s Royal Park south which has a lot of natural areas, like grasslands and bush.

“It’s been a park since 1872 and when they established the park they said it will always be a park,” he said.

Displaying his concern for the future the club president made this analogy; “If you’re shipwrecked and you have to abandon ship and jump into a life craft, and you’ve got no food, after a while you start to work out who you’re going to eat. So if you don’t have enough food you need to look for other sources, like your best friend.

“So with fewer ovals one of the things we’re worried about is that the sporting clubs will start saying ‘well we want to turn the natural areas in Royal Park south into ovals.”

He passionately expressed the reason the ovals at Royal Park are so special is because of the symmetry they provide between sports within natural surroundings.

“The reason why this is such a lovely spot is because of the bushland around us. You can see the city from the oval through the trees,” he said.

At only 4km from Melbourne’s CBD, Paul explained that many great cities have a prominent park close by.

“There’s Central Park in New York, Hyde Park in London, there’s a great park in Madrid. So if you think of a great city you’ve got to have some decent open space. 

“And when you look at an aerial map of the city of Melbourne, there’s Royal Park and Fawkner Park, and that’s it,” he said.

Paul likened the situation to a game of musical chairs, explaining that by removing the ovals for the East West link, other sporting facilities are being altered to help cope with the reallocation of clubs and games.

“To try and deal with the problem things are changing at Flemington Rd oval, and Poplar oval where our juniors play. At Poplar they’re going to rip up the synthetic wickets and put in turf wickets. Which basically means I’m not sure if the juniors will play,” said the concerned president.

Another troubling issue expressed by Paul was that the occupancy of a turf table minimises the useability of ovals by other sports.

“If you wanted to do medieval re-enactment, which they do, having a turf table in the middle of the field would piss them off. Or if you wanted to play a game of footy, it would piss them off.

“So if you want to maintain turf wickets, which we think are pretty important, it puts other sporting clubs out,” he said.

The president suggested the club are keen to think of other ways the rest of the space on the ovals can be used, proposing synthetic wickets in the outfields, or roll out mats, for the kids.

“The reason why this all matters is because ultimately sport is meaningless. It’s what’s created on the way that matters.

“So by having great facilities and the ability to play on turf wickets and great grounds, people build relationships with each other, and you build a sense of community,” said Paul. So with the construction of the East West link, many kids may have lost the chance to do just that.

The $8 billion first stage of the project is set to begin construction at the end of this year, to be completed by 2019, with the total cost of the project estimated between $15 billion and $17 billion.