It's official, the new Stratford Aquatic Centre will be built on the Portia St sports field by the hockey turf. The location of the new pool complex has been the subject of much debate in recent times, after council had previously stated its preferred choice was where the netball courts are currently located. Had this option been the final choice it would have required council to also build replacement netball courts, probably on the same sports field.
There were a number of strong reasons for supporting each option, and this was reflected in the difficult decision that each elected member had to make. The fact that the final location was chosen with only a six to five majority does not indicate a split among elected members, rather it shows both locations had considerable and near-equal merit. Each councillor had to weigh up the value they placed on each of the specific factors and make their own call. As mayor, I was impressed by the amount of effort every councillor had made to be fully informed about all the issues and their general preparedness for the debate.
One of the key factors influencing my personal decision to support the field location was that it did not require valuable funds to be spent on developing new netball courts. In turn, that will enable council to deliver the overall project cheaper than would have been the case otherwise. In addition, it means that all the money that is spent will be focused on the pool build, which will make it a little easier to meet the needs of the various users of the pool. For me, this was a fundamental issue that convinced council to replace the pool complex in the first place. Remember, this asset will serve this community for the next 50 years or more.
While the field location for the aquatic centre will still allow a significant green field area to remain, unfortunately it will not be large enough to continue to play cricket on. This will require the Stratford Cricket Club to relocate and we are very grateful the club has co-operated fully and agreed to move to an alternative venue. Council will assist with the establishment of a new artificial cricket wicket elsewhere.
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So what happens now? Firstly, there is some urgency with this project to finalise the building plans and get the actual construction under way. In part, this is due our need to comply with the "shovel-ready" status that enabled us to gain an $8 million grant as part of the Covid-19 funding the Government provided. For those wondering, in this instance "shovel-ready" in reality means early next year is the target to start digging the first hole in the ground.
Some have asked, what happens to the current pool building? Great question! At this moment in time, council has made no decision on this matter and there is no pressure to consider this until the new pool is nearly ready to open in around 15-18 months' time. I guess we could be looking forward to another debate and a wide range of suggestions to mull over, but please, let the dust settle first so we can focus on the new pool construction.
My thanks to everyone who has contributed to the aquatic centre development process so far. We have now passed a major milestone and I look forward to the construction work commencing.