The cause of these different reactions was the announcement last Thursday in a muddy paddock 100 metres from a very busy Ewingsdale Road by Federal Infrastructure Minister, Anthony Albanese, of $8 million in funding for a regional sports and cultural centre on the site.
On top of the $1.5 million already given to Byron Council by the Federal Government and the council’s own funds, there is enough money to cover the full cost of the $14 million project.
It means the complex, which will include a multi-use indoor stadium, multi-use playing fields, track and field facilities, netball courts and a bicycle circuit, should be completed well within three years.
It will also see the construction of a major roundabout in Ewingsdale Road to give safe access to the site.
“It’s absolutely brilliant – beyond our expectations,” said an excited Cr Barham after the funding announcement.
“It’s our wildest dream come true.
“Everyone said we were dreaming, that it (funding application) was too ambitious. A year ago we were despondent, now we are elated.”
Cr Barham said the site would also provide a tourism information centre and amenities and the potential for a park and ride location.
She said the funding submission for the project had been a partnership between the council and the Ewingsdale Sportsfield Working Group which included members of the Byron Bay Sports Association, community members, herself and Cr Ross Tucker.
“Over the last five years there has been a tireless commitment from the community representatives on the working group and unanimous support from council,” Cr Barham said.
“The Federal Government funding will deliver an economic stimulus to our shire in the short term but will also provide an ongoing economic benefit.
“It’s very exciting that we can now proceed with the entire project instead of it being staged.”
Cr Barham said when completed, the complex would be a major regional facility which would become ‘home’ for the Byron Bay Writers Festival.
Olympic 1500m gold medallist, Herb Elliot, who lives at Ewingsdale and who has been involved in the planning process, said he was ‘blown away’ by the funding.
Paul Irwin, a member of the sportsfields working party, said the $8 million funding was ‘unbelievable’.
“It’s out of this world,” he said.
“We were confident we would receive a significant amount, but it blew us away when they revealed the full commitment.”
The funding is part of the Federal Government’s $800 million Community Infrastructure Program.
Richmond MP Justine Elliott praised everyone who had worked hard on the project and she offered special praise for Paul Irwin’s efforts.
“What a great resource for the Byron Shire. This is a fantastic community victory,” she said.
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