Lions push on with move to Springfield
BRISBANE Lions and Ipswich City Council remain confident of securing funding for the $60 million Centenary Sports Hub at Springfield despite the Federal Government's current position being to refuse to fund the project.
The QT reported on October 7 of last year that the hub, which will also house the Lions' new training and administration base, was in jeopardy owing to the Abbott government's refusal to commit $15 million in funding towards the project. But both the Lions and the council remain committed to the project, as they have stated in the past.
Labor announced on August 15, 2013, that it had allocated $15 million to Ipswich City Council from round five of the Regional Development Australia Fund (RDAF) towards the project. But a spokesman for Infrastructure and Regional Development Minister Warren Truss said round five funding promises "will not be proceeding as these were Labor election commitments and were not funded".
Lions chairman Bob Sharpless and Mayor Paul Pisasale have met Mr Truss about the project where he asked for a new submission. Mr Truss will receive the submission this week setting out the history of the project, an overview of what construction works the project entails and how it was never suggested that the project was contingent on the previous Labor government's winning the election.
Mr Sharpless, also deputy chairman of Springfield Land Corporation, said he was aware of the new government's position, but added that his own experience in securing government funding for projects proved that an initial "no" can be reversed.
"With the Federal Government's radiation oncology funding for the Mater Hospital here in Springfield we had three rejections before they finally approved it," he said.
"A change of government always creates new challenges. The project received funding from the previous government. Now our challenge is to obtain funding from the new government.
"I am still optimistic we can receive Federal Government support and ultimately a level of funding for the project. What I don't know is how long that is going to take.
"I haven't given up on it. We did meet with Minister Truss and he suggested we make a submission to him, and that is what we have done. It is a very good project with a lot of benefits to all the various stakeholders and to the community at large."
He pointed out the facility, to be built on council land, would also be utilised by other groups.
The Lions will consider alternative arrangements if need be, but Mr Sharpless said they remained committed to the move to Springfield. Infrastructure works have already started on the project.
The spokesman for Mr Truss said the Coalition's $1 billion National Stronger Regions Fund "may be an avenue" for future funding of the project if it was considered favourably.
"The fund will allow councils and community groups to apply for grants between $20,000 and $10 million, to meet up to half the cost of community projects," the spokesman said.
But the maximum allocated funding would still leave the council $5 million short of the $15 million promised.
Cr Pisasale said he hoped "common sense will prevail" and the project's merits recognised by Mr Truss.
"We've written to the Deputy PM who has seen the facility himself and was very impressed with it.
"He said, 'Give me the evidence a commitment was made and you've got it'."
Bob Sharpless, who was installed as chairman of the Lions by the AFL in the wake of last year's bitter board split, because of his position as deputy chairman of the Springfield Land Corp, says the fight is not over but accepts it is time to look for a "Plan B."