Call for national elite-standard lighting at Wonthella Oval

IMAG0594_BURST002_crop Geraldton MLA Ian Blayney has thrown his support behind the call for national elite-standard lighting at Wonthella Oval.

Mr Blayney has written to the Minister for Sport and Recreation Hon Terry Waldron MLA calling on his support for funding to allow for the installation of 500-lux lighting at Wonthella Oval.

To add weight to the 500-lux lighting submission Mr Blayney has circulated a petition that he will present to State Parliament’s Legislative Assembly in a bid to gain support for the necessary funding.

The petition states, “Lighting at Geraldton’s Wonthella Oval should be installed to a minimum of 500 lux, with a variable capacity. This will enable Geraldton to host AFL games and other major sporting codes of State and National level, provide flexibility in fixturing, and host other key events and expos.

“Now we ask the Legislative Assembly to call on the Minister for Sport and Recreation to help secure funding to obtain this important infrastructure for Geraldton and the Midwest Region.”

Mr Blayney urged Geraldton residents to sign the petition and back the call for lighting that will allow Geraldton to keep pace with other WA regional centres such as Albany, Bunbury, Broome and Port Hedland that all have grounds equipped with 500-lux or higher lighting making them front-runners in attracting professional sport events or industry-backed expos.

“I ask everyone who supports this project to sign the petition which will have copies available at all local football clubs, other sporting codes and around the city,” Mr Blayney said.

“There will also be one in my office at 5 Chapman Road – lights of such standard will be a great thing for Geraldton and the Mid West region.”

To date the City of Greater-Geraldton (COGG) and the Mid West Development Commission have said they will support 500-lux lighting if a suitable business case can be presented to support their installation.

The GNFL has also been able to gain a $100,000 commitment from the AFL but they will not back anything less than 500-lux capacity which could cost in the vicinity of $1.5 million.

GNFL president Colin Cox said he is concerned that Geraldton is in danger of falling behind other regional WA cities if action is not taken to upgrade the lighting at Wonthella Park – now rated the city’s premier oval in the Eighth Street sport precinct – to national standards.

Mr Cox said he has attended meetings at the COGG on the city’s future directions and the constant theme is for sporting and recreation bodies to “look to the future”.

He believes the case for future planning at Wonthella Oval centres around the lighting to enable events to be held year round regardless of the season. In summer months 500-lux lighting would allow national standard sport to be played in the evening.

“I think it is vitally important looking to the future growth of Geraldton and the Mid West region,” Mr Cox said.

“Of course we’re aiming to be able to attract AFL pre-season games but other major sports and events would also be major drawcards.

“Apart from football there is rugby, soccer and cricket that would be major beneficiaries. We’ve already got letters of support from soccer and rugby indicating they’d hold pre-season games in Geraldton all of which is important for the future growth of sport in the city.

“Because of the timing of the AFL pre-season we can’t bid for a NAB Cup AFL game to be staged in Geraldton unless it is under lights of a national standard which is 500-lux.

“The boat show that has just been on would have been spectacular under lights at night. Expos and shows like dog shows – anything that is too hot to be held during the day in summer would benefit from such quality lighting.

“It is so important to look to the future – this is what was said to us when we originally started our lobby for 500-lux lights in 2008 but when we got down to the nitty-gritty the proposal changed to 250-lux - that’s not planning for the future.

“We want to plan for the future which means looking ahead to 10-15 years’ time. And the cost continues to grow….whatever the cost is now it could be three-times that in five or ten years’ time – it’s all about planning for the future.”

Sports that could be attracted to Geraldton to play under 500 lux lighting facilities at Wonthella Oval are AFL pre-season NAB Cup games, WAFL fixtures, State rugby (Western Force), State soccer (Perth Glory), 50-over or T20 cricket (Western Warriors or Perth Scorchers).

WA Football Commission senior officer Paul Lekias said anything less than 500-lux lighting would restrict the growth of sport in Geraldton and effectively negate any chance of attracting national standard sporting events to play at Wonthella Park.

Mr Lekias stressed the important strategy and argument for 500 lux lighting was to enable “flexibility in fixturing” and to meet required standards for professional non-televised sport.

Mr Cox said that sport would not be the sole beneficiary of 500-lux lighting. The lighting would make Wonthella Oval an attractive venue for entertainment, concerts, gala events, expos and other attractions.