Sport

Council’s $8.5m pledge for NRL franchise

LOOKING FORWARD: Western Corridor NRL bid chairman Steve Johnson
LOOKING FORWARD: Western Corridor NRL bid chairman Steve Johnson Sarah Harvey

SUPPORT for the Western Corridor NRL bid has taken another massive step forward with an $8.5 million commitment from Ipswich City Council towards a new training and administration base at Springfield.

The funds will depend on the bid being granted a licence, but a meeting between Western Corridor NRL bid chairman Steve Johnson, Ipswich City Council CEO Jim Lindsay and council sports supremo David Morrison has given the bid extra impetus.

The council has $3.5 million set aside to enhance the training field, land which it owns and will provide rent free to the NRL bid and - if successful with its royalty to the region's funding application to the state government - will commit another $5 million of its own funds.

Mr Johnson hailed the meeting as a historic day for rugby league.

"We are reclaiming the land we had originally earmarked through the council to be for rugby league, which momentarily the Lions and AFL aspired to take sole ownership of," he said.

"The funds go towards the green fill itself, turning it into a quality training and playing venue. Like the Broncos, we need to have a training surface that is the equivalent of any. We will actively seek extra funding from the State and Federal Government with the support of council.

"The council is helping us with the financial modelling and conceptual planning and they will assist us with the grants."

Cr Morrison said it was vital "not to put the cart before the horse" and pointed out the NRL had not called for expressions for interest to expand.

However he is keen to take NRL CEO David Smith, who works at the Queensland Rugby League offices in Brisbane one day a week, out to inspect the site.

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"We want to keep this before the NRL so they don't forget us when expansion comes," he said. "We would like to meet with Dave Smith and show him the ground, and the statistics of the whole growth of the western corridor which is the heartland of the growth of junior rugby league."

Mr Johnson said he envisaged a playing stadium to hold 10,000 would also be built.

"It will not be a base to play NRL games, but it will be a base where local clubs can come and play on a first class surface and hold events," he said. "Any community group that needs a quality playing surface and boutique stadium to host events will be able to... along with the QRL for representative games.

"We will have our state-of-the-art training facility there with educational rooms to be utilised by the University of Queensland. The cost would come in at less than $20 million."

Ipswich City Council is committed to bringing a national sport to Ipswich.

"We just hope it is for rugby league," Mr Johnson said. "All we need is a licence.

"We have no doubt that we have the playing talent in our district to fulfil our dream of having a largely home grown side in a short period of time. We have shown we can do that at the Ipswich Jets."

Topics:  ipswich city council nrl