THE looming closure of the city’s marquee sports ground – Scully Park No. 1 – has strengthened calls for a new world-class stadium to be fast-tracked for Tamworth.
Wests League Club last week announced it planned to bulldoze the historic Scully No. 1 to make way for a $12 million motel, with a new sports ground likely to be developed at Scully No. 2.
But Wests’ CEO Rod Laing has warned while the new sports ground would boast a showpiece playing surface, it would not cater for the massive crowds experienced at recent A-League, NRL and rugby trial matches, casting doubt on the city’s capacity to host similar events in future.
Council has flirted with the idea of a stadium for a number of years, with potential sites including Jack Woolaston Oval, the Longyard precinct and a council-owned parcel of land at Moore Creek. But ongoing talks between council and Wests could intensify ahead of the closure of Scully No. 1 mid-next year.
“We are a sporting hub and there are many other first-class sport facilities in town; we just need a world-class stadium,” Mr Laing said.
“Scully Park is not appropriate as a venue for it, though.
“Tamworth has long had a need for a state-of-the-art sports stadium, where football matches could be played in any weather conditions, and patrons could be accommodated in comfort.
“Plans have been around for some years, but it appears unless the community uses its voice to let council know of this need, it will just be another project that sits in the vault for years.”
Tamworth mayor Cr Col Murray said while construction of a stadium was not in council’s four-year delivery plan, it remained a critical issue for the city’s future.
“A city our size probably should have a stadium like this, but council is conscious of the cost burden it could put on the community in future,” Cr Murray said.
“It would have to be self-funding and we would have to put a strong business model together.
“As soon as funding opportunities present themselves, we would do something.”
He said the Longyard precinct would be council’s preferred location for a stadium.
The facility could cost up to $10 million to build, he said.
Long-time stadium advocate and former Northern Inland Academy of Sport executive officer Peter Annis-Brown said a stadium was the missing piece in the city’s sporting puzzle.
“We’re missing a fully-fledged aquatic centre but there’s one being built by private enterprise,” Mr Annis-Brown said.
“We really need a high-quality stadium and it needs to be open for other sports, not just rugby league and union. If we’re going to build something of that magnitude, it needs to be a shared facility.”