Park lands soccer club won’t get a fenced pitch after council rejects bid

Adelaide City Council has knocked back an Adelaide Comets Football Club request for upgrades to its Ellis Park home ground that would let it host national league games.

Feb 14, 2024, updated Feb 14, 2024

Councillors denied the proposed upgrades to Ellis Park/Tampawardli last night, after much debate over what it could mean for the future of the park lands. 

The Adelaide Comets’s request was made so it could comply with Football South Australia’s venue requirements, including a permanent, 1.1-metre-high black mesh fence. 

Last week, the City Community Services and Culture Committee recommended council approve the upgrades, on the condition that the fence be open on non-game days to signal to the public that the playing field was accessible.

Deputy Lord Mayor Keiran Snape, who is on the Kadaltilla/Adelaide Park Lands Authority Board, said many of his suggestions were incorporated into the motion before the council, but he still voted it down. 

Not to make too lighthearted a pun, I have been since that discussion ‘on the fence’ about this matter,” Snape said. 

“After weighing it up more and more… the argument of excluding people or creating an illusion to exclude people and the precedent set is worrying.”

Snape said it was not an issue where a compromise could be reached, because while the council may prefer a removable or temporary fence, that would not satisfy the premier league requirements. 

Due to Park 24 being non-compliant on fencing, the Adelaide Comets has hired other venues to host home games, including the Santos Athletics Stadium at Mile End and State Sports Park at Gepps Cross.

Only four councillors voted in favour of the upgrades: Councillors Mary Couros, Mark Siebentritt, Henry Davis and Arman Abrahimzadeh. 

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Davis rejected the discussion about a precedent, saying that the park lands were for communities to use and “what comes next arguments” were irrelevant. 

“It seems to me sporting clubs in particular are constantly under attack by this council, whether it’s refusing to consider any financial aid they may need or approvals they’re seeking to expand their communities,” he said.

Abrahimzadeh suggested that the “flip, flop” on the issue between last week and this week could give the state government a reason to “change the Park Lands Act and take away [council] control of the park lands”. 

The proposed upgrades for the Comets’ club facilities are funded by a State Government grant allocated to upgrade facilities and enable men’s and women’s National Premier League games to be played at Ellis Park. 

Councillor Janet Giles told InDaily the precedent argument was relevant and spoke to a broader issue on the western side of the city. 

“To fence off even more of the park lands and add more built form rather than increase free accessible space is unfair to both the communities of the west, both sides of the park lands” she said. 

Lord Mayor Jane Lomax-Smith said the issue would be further discussed with the Adelaide Comets and council administration.

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