The plans for an ambitious $12 million redevelopment by the Wests club group in Tamworth that includes a 52-room hotel on the grounds of Scully Park have gone on display for public comment.
The development application has been lodged with the Tamworth Regional Council but because of the nature of the proposal, mainly its estimated value, will be determined in the end by the state-government appointed joint regional planning panel on the recommendations of the council.
The controversial plans, which have prompted vocal opposition, angry debate and a heated and prolonged letter writing campaign, including lobbying of the league club board not to dig up the oval, are contained in documents that extend over 175 pages.
The application includes plans to build over the main Scully Park sporting ground, replacing it with a three-storey hotel complete with pool and gym facilities, a function centre, upgraded outdoor gaming area, dining and lounge terraces and an extra 157 car parking spaces, on the club site which is 3.77 hectares.
The application is open for written comment from the public up until 5pm on Wednesday, April 2.
The five-year masterplan by the Wests group which involves the move into hospitality accommodation was revealed by The Leader in November on the back of a group profit then of over $3 million for 2012 and indications that the board wanted to diversify for the future.
Board chairman John McClelland said then that the club should move away from its reliance on gaming to grow its business and develop other income streams.
Wests CEO Rod Laing has reiterated that aim in the past week but said the original plans for the 40-room motel being built near the corner of Kent and Phillip streets had been superseded since then.
The size and the location of the motel project have expanded considerably and it is those move that have created some condemnation and a sporting outcry.
Mr Laing said a combination of factors created the change in plans, including the fact that the original site was going to be built with access needed from near a busy intersection and a busy thoroughfare. There were indications the original site would create a traffic issue in the eyes of the council that needed to sign off on it.
But there was also compelling argument from research and the club’s project consultants.
“They suggested we needed more rooms and room to expand,” Mr Laing said.
The room size changes were based on research about coach and tour groups and the imperative to meet those demands.
Mr Laing said given the debate surrounding the newest plans he encouraged the public to view the application.
Under the new plan, and the application on display, the club wants to build a hotel with 53 rooms of 4.5 star rating, build a new function centre, provide new
outdoor lounge and dining terraces, upgrade an existing outdoor gaming terrace, extend the office facilities and increase the car
parking spaces, most of them on the Scully sports field.
The display documents record that the existing facilities at the club provide for just over 2000 people. The new function centre would cater for 586 and the terraces for another 488.
However, Mr Laing has said that the outdoor terraces might only be built in a staged development later, depending on budgetary considerations.
Wests has also indicated that the motel building will be about the same height as the existing club, because of the drop in ground levels from the Phillip St end towards Belmore St.
The project would bring to 653 the total number of car parks.
Five new staff would join five existing positions to service the function centre and there would be eight new employees for the hotel area.
The application would see the floor area of the existing club increase from 2407 square metres to 3605 square metres – an increase of 1198.
The display documents also record extensive traffic and parking studies, including a survey of customers and patrons habits, a landscape plan and an outline of the building materials and the colours being considered.
The subsequent debate and suggestion that Scully Park No. 1 will be resurrected at the Scully No. 2 ground is not considered at all in the DA.
Mr Laing said he believed Country Rugby League, the ruling body for competition in the bush, was expected in Tamworth in a couple of weeks to discuss those proposals.