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“Hundreds of millions” of dollars to flow from park lands HQ: Crows

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The Adelaide Football Club says that replacing the ageing Adelaide Aquatic Centre with a Crows-run $65m “sport and community centre” would boost the local economy by “hundreds of millions” of dollars, while admitting it’s not considering other locations for a new base.

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The Crows last night revealed for the first time their contentious plan to knock down the 50-year-old Adelaide Aquatic Centre in Park 2 and replace it with a “once in a generation” new park lands sporting facility – but it is still unclear how much space would be open to the public.

Fronting Adelaide City councillors and a packed public gallery, Crows chief executive Andrew Fagan and City Collective architect David Cooke last night said they were unable to state how much space would be used for public swimming pools, as the council was yet to finalise a needs analysis or provide the club with specific building guidelines.

After about two hours of debate – during which north ward councillor Phil Martin unsuccessfully attempted to delay a vote and several members of the public were escorted out of Town Hall for unruly behaviour – the council eventually decided take the proposal out to a 10-week public consultation.

The council will not vote to approve the Adelaide Football Club’s proposal until after the public has been consulted, with that process expected to wrap-up mid-next month.

At last night’s meeting, Cooke said preliminary economic studies indicated that the Crows’ proposed two-level facility would return “hundreds of millions” of dollars to the local economy.

“The Adelaide Football Club moving to North Adelaide would provide a significant economic contribution in the short, medium and long-term, including direct and indirect employment contribution through construction and ongoing employment in the sport and community centre,” he said.

“Preliminary economic contribution studies indicates that the economic benefit would be in the hundreds of millions.”

Fagan told reporters this morning that Ernst and Young had conducted an “economic impact study” on the value the football club brings to the Adelaide economy, as well as the return from the proposed centre’s construction.

“The reason we couldn’t be more specific about that (the figure) is (because) until the needs analysis is complete and we define the scope and scale of the aquatic centre you can’t actually complete that piece of work,” he said.

“That will be completed once we have a full picture of what the overall aquatic centre will deliver.”

A render of the proposed public aquatic facility. Image: Adelaide Football Club

The proposed new facility – dubbed by the club as a “sport and community centre” – would return over 6000-square metres to the park lands and would be split into three sections: the club’s training and administration area, an education zone from which the club would run its community programs and a public aquatic space that the club would use “on an occasional hire basis”.

“The access that the community would have to the aquatic centre would be the same that it has now, so we would just be an occasional user of that on occasion,” Fagan said this morning.

“Our use of pool facilities is really minimal – we would just be sort of paying a fee to take a lane from time to time and in terms of the oval it’s really only incidental use during daylight hours.

“I think you would find that we would be producing a facility that would be attracting more people to the space, not detract.”

The Adelaide Football Club wants to build an amphitheatre at its proposed sports and community centre. Image: Adelaide Football Club

The proposed centre would also house an amphitheatre, lecture spaces, multipurpose education rooms, and a café, a gymnasium, crèche and underground car park.

It would reach a maximum height of 16-metres – compared to the current centre’s 21-metre height – and would be surrounded by 750 linear metres of new paths and 400 linear metres of resurfaced paths for “increased connectivity” with O’Connell Street.

Under the club’s plan, existing ovals on Barton Terrace West would be upgraded to a new “high-quality, AFL-standard” oval similar to Adelaide Oval, while the ovals on Park 2 would remain untouched and unfenced.

Pretty pictures have finally been offered, except it’s not generous, it’s a proposed commercial takeover

The centre itself would also remain unfenced, but would instead be “screened” by 100 new trees and landscaped gardens.

Fagan said the club would not pursue a liquor licence for the site, but would instead encourage patrons to visit existing licenced venues along O’Connell Street.

He said the club had not yet determined whether it would operate the aquatic centre, or whether that responsibility would fall to the council or a third-party company.

The proposal has received considerable backlash from park lands advocates and some city councillors, who claim it represents a commercial infringement on the park lands.

At last night’s council meeting, Adelaide Park Lands Preservation Association president Shane Sody chided the “Adelaide Football corporation” for proposing to use public land to build what he said would be a commercial venture.

“Pretty pictures have finally been offered, except it’s not generous, it’s a proposed commercial takeover on terms attractive to the bidder,” he said.

Asked this morning if the Adelaide Football Club was considering any other location – apart from the park lands – for its proposed centre, Fagan said Park 2 “is the location that we’re looking at”.

“We always know that when you’re talking about change or you’re talking about development there’s always going to be lots of opinion,” he said.

“At the moment this is the location that we’re looking at… and we think that it’s a compelling proposition that’s definitely worth exploring.”

The entrance to the Adelaide Football Club’s proposed sports and community centre. Image: Adelaide Football Club

Fagan said last night that the club’s proposal presented an “overwhelmingly positive story” and rebuked claims that the centre would not be open to the public.

“We have heard some comments in the public about what the Adelaide Football Club is proposing, such things as fences around ovals and limiting public access to Park 2 and the Aquatic Centre, pubs in the park, eight-storey office buildings and things that are just not true,” he said.

“The current Adelaide Aquatic Centre is an ageing facility, potentially at or near the end of its lifecycle.

“It’s become a burden financially to the council and ratepayers and it’s not delivering the quality level of amenity expected of the community.

“Our view, based on the existing use of the facility, (is) the majority of the community will prefer new and enhanced aquatic and recreational services.”

At last night’s meeting, Warren Green – the author of the council’s needs analysis report assessing the current usage and future viability of the Aquatic Centre – said the existing centre was heading towards “failure zone”.

There is so much scare-mongering and fake news out there

His report found city ratepayers could be forced to cough up $21 million to fix the ageing centre in the short and long term.

However, demolishing the centre and returning the site in its entirety to a park lands setting is also likely to cost up to $7 million.

“The customer experience is not going to change in any substantial way by investing back into the asset, which is at a challenging point in time,” Green said.

“We are starting to talk about big dollars, big footprints, really significant commitments.”

Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor reiterated last night that “no deal has been done” between the council and the Crows.

“There is so much scare-mongering and fake news out there in terms of 17-storey (buildings) and cyclone fencing and barbed wire,” she said.

“We are yet to do detailed modelling, we are yet to look at the operations and the commercial and the feasibility studies.

“There was a push from this council to get this consultation out as soon as humanly possible and take advantage of the highest period of visitation at the Aquatic Centre, which is the summer period.

“I look forward to seeing where we go next.”

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