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Calls to speed up Ashburton’s sport hub

Calls to speed up Ashburton’s sport hub
An artist’s impression of the potential layout of the extended stadium and aquatic centre and green field developments. SUPPLIED

More details of Ashburton's proposed EA Networks Centre master plan have been refined, but some are calling for the development to be brought forward.

The 30-year draft master plan provides the blueprint for the future development of a sports hub at the EA Networks Centre, but doesn't include the project's timing or budgeting.

There are some aspects included in Ashburton council's long-term plan that have a budget allocated, including the stadium’s $23.7m three-court extension starting in 2030.

However, the rest of the 30-year master plan signalled what will go where, when the time comes.

At the council hearings this week, people and facilities group manager Sarah Mosley said while the council’s available land around the sports centre appears large, they can’t fit or afford everything.

“Although we would love a sports hub to have absolutely everything, we would probably do it poorly if we tried, so it's best to limit our options and provide what we can, well.”

There are existing facilities at the Ashburton Domain for tennis, cricket, and athletics while softball and football are planned to be homed at Argyle Park, Mosley said.

The centre’s planned greenfield development includes two turfs and two sports fields that are aimed at being multi-use, Mosley said.

A final draft of the plan may take months, with the council keeping an eye on Mid Canterbury Rugby (MCRU) decisions around remaining at the A&P Showgrounds.

MCRU chief executive Tanya Dearns told councillors that developing the green field space was critically urgent and pushed for it to coincide with the stadium extension.

“Potential community partners could work together to ensure or to secure financial commitments and create a fundraising plan to be ready in seven years."

Conversations with partners and users of the entire facility, including indoor sports, should start now, Dearns said.

"There are members of the community that would partner with us, with the sports, with the council, to get this development underway sooner rather than later.”  

Mid Canterbury Rugby is keen for the Ashburton District Council to bring forward the green field developments at EA Networks Centre. SUPPLIED

Mid Canterbury Cricket asked only to be part of the conversation as their home ground would likely be the Ashburton Domain.

Cricket's Mike Southby said even if the field configuration changed to allow a pitch, it would only be one so they would still need games in the domain.

In another submission, the Ashburton Range Users Association wanted assurance that they would not be squeezed out by the future development and safety fears over their proximity to the proposed sports fields. The shooting range sits on Crown land adjacent to the council-owned land.

EA Networks Centre's new manager Richard Wood said the noise from the shooting range is negligible, and he didn’t see the fenced-off range being a problem in future.

The council removed any expenditure on an outdoor pool from the long-term plan but there is space allocation for a future aquatic extension, either indoor or outdoor, in the 30-year master plan.

Councillor Richard Wilson said squash courts were not a viable option as they not a multipurpose space.

How a three-court extension of the EA NEtworks Centre stadium could look. SUPPLIED

Councillor Lynette Lovett asked about a skate park being included and also supported a climbing wall option being retained in the plan to provide youth activities.

A skate park was disregarded but a climbing wall will be considered as part of any future stadium extension.

“Leave it on the list to be discarded or built at a later time,” Mayor Neil Brown said.

Adding squash courts to the plan was also raised.

However, it remained absent from the plans for now as there had been no submissions from the squash fraternity.

By Jonathan Leask