Sports clash over track plan

Noble Park Tennis Club members, front from left, Matthew Lawrence and Patrick Malone, with Parkfield Cricket Club secretary David Swierzbiolek, Noble Park United Soccer Club secretary Lillie Muric and Noble Park Tennis Club president Suzanne Lawrence. 187382_01 Picture: CAM LUCADOU-WELLS

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

In the face of a cyclist backlash, three sports clubs are stepping up their support for the demolition of at Parkfield Reserve’s velodrome.

Noble Park Tennis Club, Noble Park United Soccer Club and Parkfield Cricket Club say they have gathered hundreds of local signatures for a petition backing Greater Dandenong Council’s draft masterplan.

The masterplan includes the demolition of Maurice Kirby Velodrome to make way for an extra soccer field and a shared walking-cycling path, as well as a modern pavilion shared by the clubs.

The pavilion is a desperately-needed upgrade, replacing the clubs’ cramped, dilapidated 50-year-old facilities.

The clubs have lobbied the council hard for new rooms for more than six years. They’re told the pavilion upgrade hinges on the masterplan being approved by Greater Dandenong councillors.

The needs of the clubs are stark. At the tennis club, wide cracks are spreading through its brick walls. Its storeroom is bizarrely open to the elements – it is dubbed ‘the Narnia cupboard’, says club president Suzanne Lawrence.

Barely a dribble escapes from the changeroom showers, stained brown by dirty water mains pipes.

The cricket and soccer clubs share a pavilion with a tiny function room, cramped player and ref changerooms, and a cluttered kitchen with little gap between the oven door and the fridge.

Under the plan, the cricket nets will be moved away from a pedestrian footpath.

Noble Park United secretary Lillie Muric said the extra soccer field was essential for the club’s survival in a fast-growing sport.

For the first time, the club could offer teams for juniors.

Parkfield Cricket Club secretary David Swierzbiolek said the larger cricket oval would finally meet official regulations.

It would also remove the hazard of an asphalt perimeter track for fielders, and allow for attractions like a surrounding playground and barbecues.

“I don’t see (the track) as a benefit compared to what the masterplan is offering,” Mr Swierzbiolek said.

Meanwhile cyclists are re-forming the Dandenong Noble Park Cycling Club in the hope of saving the Parkfield track.

They argue a relatively cheap resurfacing of the track – with a rebuild of its most warped section – would create a regional cycling attraction.

Member Kim Nguyen, of Springvale, said there was space for the proposed shared pavilion alongside the velodrome.

“The whole area can be upgraded without downgrading the pavilion.”

He took heart from a meeting with Greater Dandenong chief executive John Bennie and city planning director Jody Bosman at the track on Melbourne Cup Day.

The track had been under-promoted for years, escaping the notice of avid cyclists living just streets away, Mr Nguyen said.

In recent weeks, 30 cyclists in the South East, including Greater Dandenong, had given their intention to sign up with the cycling club, he said.

After a local doorknock, Ms Muric said that 97 per cent of neighbours backed the plan. There’s doubts that many of the cycling club are locals, she said.

“If the cycling club hadn’t left 20 years ago, there wouldn’t be an issue.”

Mr Swierzbiolek added: “That’s where the local people become frustrated. They haven’t given back to the community like the local clubs have for years.”

“We have to plan for the future,” Ms Lawrence said.

“And our community is saying we want tennis, cricket and soccer clubs.”

Councillors are expected to vote on the draft masterplan this month.

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