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Park land pitch fence bid under review

Concerns have been raised about a bid to install permanent fencing around a western park lands sporting pitch, as part of an upgrade to enable a club to host national league games.

Feb 07, 2024, updated Feb 07, 2024

Adelaide City councillors discussed proposed upgrades to Park 24 of Ellis Park/Tampawardli at a committee meeting last night, which would allow the Adelaide Comets Football Club to host National Premier League and Women’s National Premier League games.

To comply with Football South Australia’s venue requirements, the club wants to install a permanent 1.1-metre-high black mesh fence, temporary spectator fencing, retractable sports netting behind each goal, a retractable players’ race, movable shelters for players and officials and a moveable media box.

BEFORE: The existing condition of Adelaide Comets Football Club, visible from West Terrace. This photo: Adelaide Comets via LANDSKAP

AFTER: The proposed fencing, viewed from West Terrace. This photo: Adelaide Comets via LANDSKAP

The upgrades are valued at approximately $550,000 and are funded by a State Government grant through the Office of Recreation, Sport and Racing.

The funding was a pre-election commitment, granting the club $1.75 million to replace sports lighting across the playing fields, upgrade the turf and irrigation of the main pitch as well as the elements before council that will enable NPL and WNPL games to be played at the club.

The council previously approved the new sports lighting and the turf and irrigation upgrades.

But concerns have been raised about how additional upgrades would impact public access to the park lands, with Councillor Janet Giles asking about the precedent this may set for other sporting clubs.

“Is this like the beginning of a big, long list of other soccer grounds who will need to do the same thing and we’ll be looking at a whole list of fenced areas because the league has made this ruling?” Councillor Giles asked.

The venue requirements only affect clubs hosting Premier League games. Due to Park 24 being non-compliant, the Adelaide Comets have been hiring other venues to host their home games, including the Santos Athletics Stadium at Mile End and State Sports Park at Gepps Cross.

The City Community Services and Culture Committee recommended council approve the upgrades, but to require the fence around the main pitch to be open on non-game days to signal to the public that the playing field is accessible.

The recommendation also specifies there should be no permanent club signage, only signage that clearly states when the club is using the grounds and when the pitch is and isn’t available for public use.

The proposed fence is 1.1. metres high with double gates without locks. Although the width of the gates was not specified, they are said to be double gates large enough for emergency vehicles to pass through.

Councillor David Elliott raised concerns about the width of the gates and whether signage would be enough.

“There’s something in the psyche where if a space isn’t wide enough, it doesn’t look inviting enough,” Elliott said.

“Having worked in retail, I know that people in public do not read signs.

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“You can put as much information there as possible but if the space isn’t designed in a way that encourages or invites that behaviour, then you’re still going to get people going ‘oh fence!’ and turn around go back the other way.”

Adelaide Comets celebrating after a 2020 win. This photo: Adam Butler

The club is also proposing to add a portable electronic scoreboard, irrigated turf viewing mounds, accessible parking spaces, paving between the clubrooms and main pitch and a 1.8-metre-wide accessible path.

These additions are not requirements to host League games.

The Kadaltilla/Adelaide Park Lands Authority Board visited the site and assessed the proposed upgrades at the end of last year.

Based on its assessment, the city’s community services committee was advised that an exposed aggregate concrete access path on the northern and western boundaries of the pitch would be better than pathways around the entire pitch border.

The committee was also advised the compressed aggregate path would allow access to parts of the oval for those using assisted devices, an upgrade that supports an increase in disability programs planned by the club.

Councillors will vote next week on whether to adopt the committee’s recommendations. If passed, the club plans to implement the improvements in order to host NPL and WNPL games between June and August, the latter half of the 2024 season.

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