‘I’m actually shocked’: Lord Mayor reacts to ‘megalith’ park lands sports site upgrades

Lord Mayor Jane Lomax-Smith has raised concerns about the “colossal” size of proposed sporting club redevelopments to replace ageing and rundown facilities in city park lands, amid debate over whether Adelaide City Council should limit their building footprint.

May 05, 2023, updated Aug 28, 2023
Concept designs for a proposed two-storey clubrooms in Park 21W. Image: City of Adelaide

Concept designs for a proposed two-storey clubrooms in Park 21W. Image: City of Adelaide

Councillors this week debated whether to budget $20.8m over seven years to upgrade sporting facilities in the park lands through a co-investment model with local sporting clubs and the state government.

Currently, sporting clubs who lease space in the park lands are responsible for upgrading their facilities.

Council administration said this model has left park lands facilities that are “unsightly, dated and not fit for purpose” and recommended council take “a more proactive role” in funding upgrades.

Making the case for more investment, council’s community lifestyle team leader Ray Scheuboeck presented images of change rooms with mould, light poles that have fallen onto playing surfaces and a shipping container being used as storage on park lands.

Photos of dilapidated park lands facilities shown to councillors on Tuesday. Photos: City of Adelaide

“These images highlight the dire shortage of adequate storage space, where in some extreme cases with shipping containers in the park lands,” Scheuboeck told councillors on Tuesday.

“It’s not just buildings that we have issues with from an asset point of view, it’s also the sporting surfaces.

“The crux of all this is we want to look at a proposed approach where we (council) do the planning and co-investment of facilities in the park lands.

“That way we can connect facilities and integrate with the wider park lands environment, create climate resilient facilities and spaces and support use of the park lands by as many people as possible.”

Councillors were told there are 55 community leased and licensed facilities in the council’s asset register for which there has been no budget to upgrade.

Scheuboeck presented seven priority park lands “regeneration” projects to councillors with a total estimated value of $57.1m. Council would chip in $20.8m while the sporting clubs and state government would fund the remaining $36.3m.

The first project would be a facilities upgrade for Park 21W (Golden Wattle Park/Mirnu Wirra) on the corner of South Terrace and Goodwood Road.

Scheuboeck said this project was “shovel ready” with $2.55m already committed from the state government and the lessee, the Adelaide Lutheran Sports Club, for a new two-storey building and upgraded facilities.

Concept designs for the proposed two-storey clubrooms in Park 21W. Image: City of Adelaide

The second project would be in Park 27B (Mary Lee Park), situated between War Memorial Drive and Park Terrace near Bowden.

The park is home to the West Adelaide Hellas Soccer Club, which has won $2m in state government funding for a facilities upgrade.

An aerial shot of the plan for Park 27B. Image: City of Adelaide

But Lord Mayor Jane Lomax-Smith raised concerns about the footprint of the Park 21W upgrade, telling councillors it “looks like this is a development site of monumental scale”.

“I’m actually shocked by this,” she said on Tuesday.

“I won’t mention park lands regeneration as an ‘Orwellian’ title because these are rebuilt redevelopment plans, and regeneration sounds like plants to me.

“But I have to say the thing that has shocked me most is the size of these developments – these are megaliths.

“This isn’t a minor park lands restoration… it looks like a two-storey, 1000-square metre edifice.

“I’m not quite sure what it is, but the size of it is colossal.”

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Scheuboeck told the Lord Mayor the Adelaide Park Lands Authority and council had previously agreed on a 465 square metre footprint for the new Park 21W building, up from 370 square metres currently.

“The concept that you see there, and I’m sorry that it’s so alarming, but it is I think 405 square metres,” he said, later adding that it was more than 800 square metres of floor space over two-storeys.

“Part of that was the intent of the design… is to have that overhang over the building which is trying to make the lower part of the building look smaller.”

Scheuboeck said the new Park 21W sports building would include social and commercial space for the club.

Central Ward councillor David Elliott said allowing sporting clubs to expand their footprint in the park lands could create expectations from other clubs vying for facility upgrades.

The location of the seven priority “regeneration” projects for the park lands identified by council administration. Image: City of Adelaide

“I think we need to set a ceiling for what’s an appropriate level for co-funding for council to engage with, whether that’s amenity or space,” he said.

He also said the council should be aware of “a degree of hypocrisy” if it co-invested in larger facilities in Park 21W, as the site is SA Police’s chosen location for the new police horse barracks, which council opposes.

“I use the example of Golden Wattle Park because we’ve actively taken a stance of opposition to another development by another governmental party in another corner of that same park, which has been described as a compound that works as an exclusion to the public from their park lands,” Elliott said.

“And I think there’s a sentiment for a lot of these large pavilions with spaces for hire, they function as spaces that exclude the public.

“They still work in effect as compounds because you can’t move in and through and engage with those spaces in the way that members of those clubs can.

“I think we need to be very aware of that narrative of potential hypocrisy if we start to expand all of the buildings that are there because someone said, ‘oh I need an extra 16 rooms to store my canoes’.”

South Ward councillor Keiran Snape acknowledged that some park lands sporting facilities were in “dire” need of an upgrade, but argued council should not co-invest in projects that expand a building’s footprint.

Photos of dilapidated park lands facilities shown to councillors on Tuesday. Photo: City of Adelaide

“I think council should make a commitment that we could be willing to fund certain things but not if it involved any increase to space built on park lands,” he said.

“If you need a new changing room and it is dilapidated and it’s got black mould then, yes, that’s something we can talk about

“But if it involves an increase in size, immediately it’s ruled out. I think that should be a baseline – no increase in size on park lands.”

The council will consider co-investing in the seven park lands “regeneration” projects as part of its 2023/24 annual business plan later in the year.

Organised sport facilities represent 14 per cent of the park lands, with only 2.5 per cent restricting access, according to the council report presented on Tuesday.

Over the last 40 years, the footprint of sporting areas in the park lands has decreased by around 19 per cent, or 28 hectares, although organised sport still accounts for 20 per cent of the approximately nine million visits to the park lands each year.

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