Construction begins on Northern Inland Centre of Sporting Excellence

OFF AND RACING: From left: Marjolyn Thomas, Zane Tapp, Bridie Martin, Col Murray, Kevin Anderson and Barnaby Joyce. Photo: Peter Hardin 150917PHB029
OFF AND RACING: From left: Marjolyn Thomas, Zane Tapp, Bridie Martin, Col Murray, Kevin Anderson and Barnaby Joyce. Photo: Peter Hardin 150917PHB029

THE starting gun on Tamworth’s $17.2 million Northern Inland Sporting Centre of Excellence was fired with construction under way.

Equestrian, cycling and athletics are the big sporting winners with the new development, but it will prove to also be a “game-changer” for the region’s economy, administrators and politicians say.

Before the end of 2017, a new outdoor and warm-up arena for equestrian sports will be completed, with dressage and showjumping organisers flagging some huge events to come to town.

Olympic showjumper, Ron Easey said: “we’re eventually looking at holding the Australian championships here”.

“We’ve got the best indoor in Australia now, if we get this going, we will have the best outdoor in Australia,” he said.

While local dressage president Marjolyn Thomas said talks were under way to bring state championships back to town.

Similarly, Little Athletics officer, Adam Joliffe, talked up Tamworth’s chances of bringing in a state multi event, whihc he said would assemble more than 1000 NSW athletes in town.

The athletics and cycling components of the sporting won’t be completed until the end of December 2018.

The wait may leave local cyclists in the lurch with the impending sale of the Peel St velodrome, but it’s a small price to pay, Tamworth cycle club racing coordinator Rob Wright said, with a “world-class facility” on the way, which will be less-challenging and more attractive for youngsters.

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Mayor Col Murray said the start of construction on the project signalled “a very critical time” for the region and it would become a jewel in the crown.

The federal government stumped up $8.5 million for the project and New England MP Barnaby Joyce said it was a “coincidence” work started now, rejecting claims it was part of a preemptive campaign.

“We’ve been talking about this for ages, we’ve been fighting for this for ages,” Mr Joyce said.

“They’re talking about Bolivia Hill realignment, that was one of the first promises I made when I came back home and it’s just that you have to drive and fight to get these things.

“I’m going to keep doing that regardless of what happens in high court, I’m going to keep on doing my job.”

Mr Joyce said the project was about attaining parity with facilities in major cities and praised council its efforts.

The state government contributed $4.25 million for the construction of the centre and Tamworth MP, Kevin Anderson, said it was about providing opportunities for the best sporting opportunities for the region’s young people.