Sandra Sully: Dear Premier -- Here Is Your Stadium Solution
Do we really want to be a nation of just spectators?
With an election in the wind, I wanted to reach out, albeit publicly, and offer you a solution to solving your stadium dilemma and simultaneously deliver you some big ticks in the popularity stakes.
We all know that when it comes to election day, it's the ballot box that counts, and I mean EVERY ballot box.
Let's also consider our bulging national health budget, that's going to tip the scales at more than $170 billion dollars. According to the recent Four Corners Report -- Tipping the Scales -- 60 percent of Australian adults are classified as overweight or obese, and by 2025 that figure is expected to rise to 80 percent.
Our waistlines are expanding almost as quickly as your new sports stadiums are being erected, or upgraded.
But do we really want to be a nation of just spectators?
Don't we want, don't we need as many of our kids, parents and citizens playing sport, being active, as often as they line up to buy a ticket to the footy, cricket, soccer, netball and hockey?
Currently, your stadiums policy is a shambles, and I think you know that.
You've been accused of doing something akin to "a quadruple backflip in the pike position... a ludicrous policy of knocking down both the Olympic and Sydney Football Stadium, saving $500 million," by one of your most vocal opponents on your stadiums policy, columnist Peter FitzSimons.
Currently your policy services elite sports only, and leaves community sports and local clubs sidelined.
Let's take Netball, for example. This sport has 120,000 registered players, more participants than the other rugby codes and still doesn't have a decent indoor facility to cater for its 20-odd Sydney games a year. It has to schedule games around concerts at Qudos Bank Stadium in Homebush while, according to Carolyn Campbell, Netball NSW chief executive, "a refit of the underused, uncovered NSW Tennis Centre in Homebush would give it the perfect venue."
But how can you satisfy the voracious appetites of every major and minor junior sporting organisation and vocal critic alike?
Right now, around $500 million is up for grabs and on the table. Add to that another $100 million dollars you announced on April 12 "as a boost for local sports facilities ... to help fund up to 120 projects including upgraded ovals, dressing rooms, kiosks and football goals."
Although, as I understand it, that is actually only $1 million dollars per Sydney Council region and, frankly, you can't do much with $1 million dollars when it comes to building or creating new sports facilities.
So, back to your $500 million dollars.
In a bustling, cosmopolitan and ever-expanding metropolis like Sydney, the demand for open space and better facilities has never been higher.
You need more schools, hospitals, roads and infrastructure and you also need more green spaces and play areas to meet our exploding population base.
You also want councils to increase their medium density quotient but that only highlights a glaring lack of open space and inadequate community facilities.
So why not consider two overlapping maps of the greater Sydney basin? One to give you a geographical and strategic snapshot of schools that need urgent upgraded sports facilities, the other to identify the gaps in much-needed community sporting facilities. Where they intersect is where you target schools funding with a tied grant so that the facilities are upgraded with community access.
You might need to create a governing body to administer these facilities to arbitrate access and obvious conflicts and tensions that will arise, but the clubs and community groups also get to bypass local councils who inherently gouge them for costs of lighting and upkeep to keep their coffers afloat.
You would be delivering to the community upgraded school facilities, especially in the areas targeted for massive population growth, as well as those congested inner Sydney regions that are currently choked for choice and screaming for assistance or relief.
To cater for the variety of sports that would want access, why not replicate the terrific concept currently on display at Molong in the State's Central West?
These Fit for Purpose Fields, multi-purpose facilities cater for hockey, basketball, netball, cricket and tennis, and are intended for junior players and social sports, at a much lower cost base, and more easily actioned due to the fact that they satisfy the needs of many groups.
The new turfs don't need water and come at a much cheaper price.
Closer to home, there's the desperate efforts of the city's inner-west, where both the Glebe District Hockey Club and Balmain South Sydney Cricket Club have joined forces to lobby the Sydney City Council to realise the potential of a 'Moore Park of City-West'.
It's hoped here they could create a City-West Sports Hub to meet 21 century demands by installing a multi-sport synthetic pitch at Federal Park -- as well as the installation of synthetic multipurpose playing fields, cricket nets, tennis and netball courts at Federal Park, Annandale.
Sure it takes money, and Federal Park is understood to be flood-prone and below the 1 in 100 year flood plain, but with free and clean land-fill currently available from the WestConnex roads project, surely this could be fast-tracked?
While our Hockey Players are some of the best in the world, let alone our cricketers and tennis stars, currently their junior elite squad is reduced to playing on a dust-bowl for practice as their isn't a turf available in a 10km radius of the city.
There are more than 15 schools within a 3km radius of this site with inadequate sporting and recreational faciliteis.
Clearly there is an under-supply of facilities for active outdoor recreational activities within the City of Sydney and beyond.
Let's face it, Premier, for most time-poor adults and parents, a one-stop shop that's available for all age groups and all levels of sport would be a godsend in most local areas.
This could be the gateway to getting more kids away outside, away from playing games on computers and out in the fresh air, staying fit and healthy and engaging with their friends and team-mates, not to mention tackling our soaring obesity epidemic which in turn strains our health system.
Our sports-loving kids and our ever-expanding waistlines deserve better.