Byron Bay family Chris Moon and Mandy Montalbetti with their children Hunter, 3, and Tyler, 5, were among those to inspect progress on the sports complex on Sunday.
Byron Bay family Chris Moon and Mandy Montalbetti with their children Hunter, 3, and Tyler, 5, were among those to inspect progress on the sports complex on Sunday.

Sport fields project nears completion

THE paddock where Federal Minister for Infrastructure Anthony Albanese stood more than two years ago to announce $8m in funding for the Byron Bay sports fields project to a shocked, but delighted, audience is unrecognisable today.

A funding announcement for the much-needed sports fields and indoor centre was expected that day, but nothing of the magnitude announced by Mr Albanese.

What it did was ignite what looked like being a slow-burning project and gave Byron Council the impetus to push ahead with it.

Rising from that same paddock today and spreading out for hundreds of metres is a developing major sports and cultural complex which, when completed early next year, will be a dream come true for local sporting clubs.

Along with other residents, I took advantage of an invitation to tour the site last Sunday and to look at what almost $17m can buy.

Firstly, it’s a massive site. It has to be to accommodate fields for soccer, rugby union, cricket, athletics, hockey, basketball, netball and community use, along with an indoor sports centre.

Turf on most of the fields seems to have taken well and work is under way on what will be Byron Bay’s first turf cricket wicket.

Amenities blocks have been completed, as have parking areas, and the indoor sports centre is taking shape.

However, there are major problems with the project, according to the Byron Sports Association, which has been closely involved in the whole process.

One of the biggest, said association spokesman Paul Irwin, was the design and construction of soccer and cricket fields in the south-west corner of the site.

Mr Irwin said the gradients on the field were “questionable” and despite five weeks of very little rain, the fields were very wet, unplayable and dangerous.

He said it had been agreed at an on-site meeting involving soccer and cricket club representatives, the mayor, Cr Jan Barham, and the council’s director of community infrastructure, Phil Holloway, that because of the fill and slope anomalies and waterlogged soils, a “critical audit” be conducted to come up with solutions.

Mr Irwin said the sports association also was greatly concerned money spent on reconstructing the roundabout and Ewingsdale Rd “estimated to be hundreds of thousands of dollars” was being taken out of the sports fields budget.

He said the association also was concerned that works due to start on June 13 and finish a month later had not all been completed and would not be completed because of cost overruns.

The association has raised concerns about the weekly costs of on-site staff, machinery hire and project management costs, estimated to be in the area of $16,000 to $20,000, and seven weeks on from June 13, the works were still not completed.

Mr Holloway said concerns raised by the Byron Sports Association were being considered.

He said the council had a very tight budget and time frame for the sports complex.

“To date we’ve managed to keep within the parameters of the project which has been made challenging with around half of the site working days being rain-affected,” he said.

“This has meant site work-arounds have been an integral strategy to keep the project on time and on budget.”

Mr Holloway said the council had approved in May an ancillary list from the association totalling $356,000 that would go ahead if funding was available at the end of the project.

“Whilst I can appreciate the sports association’s concern that this funding may not be available, we are doing everything we possibly can to save funds and implement the list,” he said.

Mr Holloway said the issues raised over the south-west playing field would be investigated and resolved prior to the opening of the complex.

The project is getting close to completion.

Barring any major weather events, or other calamities, the sports fields should be ready for use early next year.

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