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Stadium extension supported

Stadium extension supported
The Ashburton District Council owns land to the west of EA Networks Centre that has been earmarked for future sports field development. PHOTO JONATHAN LEASK/LDR

Extending the EA Networks Centre and revisiting Ashburton's long-mooted green field development could be on the cards, following a council study.

A study looking at how sports groups currently utilise the district’s sporting facilities and fields was designed to assist in planning development projects over the next 10 years and beyond.

People and facilities group manager Sarah Mosley said the utilisation study identified some potential projects for the council to consider for its long-term plan (LTP) 2024-34.

It confirmed that during peak hours, after 5pm and during the weekends, demand for indoor courts exceeded the four EA Network Centre (EANC) currently has.

“The need for new hockey/turf fields - due to replacement and demand - was also noted, as was the need for more learn to swim space.”

At the EANC, the first step will be to create a draft masterplan based on the utilisation study, Mosley said.

Then it will be time for engagement with the wider community “to check we are including the right projects within the upcoming long term plan”.

The report also suggested Argyle Park could be redeveloped to become the home of football and softball.

Depending on what comes from the EANC masterplan, they could be included in any green field development.

The council owns a large tract of land, around 15 hectares, to the west of the sports centre which was secured to future proof the site by providing room for the stadium to be extended and space for a variety of outdoor sports.

A draft master plan for the green fields was produced in 2017 but never actioned.

A number of significant changes have occurred since then, so the 2023 masterplan will be a fresh look, Mosley said.

In her final act as Ashburton’s Sport Canterbury regional manager, Jan Cochrane said the utilisation study reaffirmed plenty of things, including the vision of a sports hub.

“There is still that vision that they had years ago, to extended and enhance what’s already here at the EA Networks Centre so in time it will become the sports hub that the community and council envisioned would happen.

“The study showed the need for the extension of the courts for others sports to be able to have space and have room to grow.”

By Jonathan Leask