Macleay sporting clubs and community members who have pushed for improved sporting facilities in Kempsey can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel after nearly two decades of discussions and pleas.
The Member for Oxley Melinda Pavey MP recently announced she will commit $10 million to the Verge Street Fields Project, which will see a redevelopment of the entire site, if she is re-elected.
The project will include grading and resurfacing of all fields, an upgrade of the existing grandstand, reconfiguration of existing fields, a new turf wicket for cricket, provision of three grass and 10 hard surface netball courts, new purpose built clubhouse incorporating amenities and change rooms, new lighting to competition standard on all fields, courts and ancillary areas, passive recreation facilities including a running path and fitness stations and expansion of car parking.
The sporting fields are used by various local clubs including; Kempsey Saints, Kempsey Dragons, Macleay Valley Mustangs, Macleay Netball, Kempsey Cannonballs and cricket clubs.
The upgraded facilities will allow for the juniors, men's and women's teams to train on quality standard fields, play and train under lights and increase the development of local athletes.
Kempsey Saints president Luke Flanagan believes the upgrade wouldn't have been possible without the hard work from a large portion of the community.
"All sporting groups in the Macleay came together many years ago to be a driving force for these upgrades," Mr Flanagan told the Argus.
"We have pushed for this for a long time and it's a massive boost not only for local sports clubs but for the whole of Kempsey."
Meanwhile Macleay Valley Cricket Association president Ben Paix was relieved to finally see a commitment to the upgrade.
"It's obviously a massive positive for sport but to be honest it's about time," Mr Paix said.
"The facilities and the condition of the fields haven't been up to standard for a long time but at least it's finally getting the attention it deserves."
While Mr Paix is ecstatic the project will go ahead, he believes there will need to be adjustments made to the initial plan.
In the current proposed development, there will be one cricket pitch but Mr Paix is adamant the association will need two at the venue.
"There's still a lot of consulting to be done between clubs to make sure each sport gets the most out of the upgrade," Mr Paix said.
The commitment from Mrs Pavey, which she claims will go ahead "100 per cent" if she's re-elected, will open up a massive realm of opportunities.
"When the upgrades are complete we will definitely look into hosting large carnivals and gala days," Mr Flanagan said.
The Macleay Netball Association president Karen Lambley said they will explore similar options, as their courts will be rearranged and extended to have two additional hard courts at the completion of the project.
"We will be able to host regional carnivals, one-off events and the Netball NSW Schools Cup too," Ms Lambley said.
"We haven't been able to do that in the past, as we haven't had enough courts."
The local association will also be able to continue growing.
"With the additional courts, we will be able to play more games at once which allows more teams and players to be registered," Ms Lambley said.
"We will also be able to have more teams in our twilight competition, as the lights will permit more courts to be open."
With an election around the corner, Mrs Pavey's intention to fulfil the upgrade could be questioned. However, Mrs Pavey claims she will stick to her word.
"I guarantee this will happen, 100 per cent, if I am re-elected," Mrs Pavey told the Argus.
"I have spoken with the Macleay sporting clubs and community members and I know how necessary this upgrade is.
“This project is one of the largest investments in sport and recreation infrastructure within the Macleay Valley. It will enable more sporting events to be held across the complex and will provide a significant boost to the local economy."
The upgrade of Verge St Oval and the adjacent grandstand would also create the opportunity for other sporting teams to host finals matches at the venue and the Mustangs are open to this idea.
"If it doesn't intervene with Mustangs' home games then we are more than happy to see them use the field," Mustangs president David Fernando said.
Kempsey Shire Council’s Director Operations and Planning, Robert Fish said the council are in full support of the upgrade and they have secured grants which will "contribute to the overall objective of the project".
"Kempsey Shire Council has identified the upgrade of Verge/Eden Street sports fields to a sub-regional facility as a priority in its Delivery Program and Macleay Valley Sports Strategy," Mr Fish said.
"Council would need to consider the staged allocation of necessary funding toward the multi-year project in the development of its forward Operating Plans.
"Funding through other grant schemes has also been secured by Council."
Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Oxley candidate Dean Saul believes the funding announcement is very positive for the community.
"The announcement of the funding for the Verge Street Sporting Complex for the community of Kempsey Shire is very welcomed," Mr Saul said.
"The Macleay Valley has proudly produced many well loved sporting stars over the years.
"The Shooters, Fishers, and Farmers Party plan to lobby to invest even more in sporting, and athletics infrastructure, so we can nurture even more future sporting achievers.
"As an example of what benefits a marginal seat can bring, the NSW Premier has promised a $25 million stadium for the seat of Orange, currently held by the Shooters, Fishers, and Farmers Party."
The sporting precinct has had very little development in the past 40 years.
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