STADIUM SHOWDOWN: State pledges $25M to Browne Park
ABOUT five weeks from election day and less than two weeks after the Federal Government promised to build a stadium at Victoria Park, the State Labor Government returned fire with a sporting proposal of its own.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk visited Rockhampton today to announce the renovation of Browne Park.
The first stage of the redevelopment, which replaces the Jack Crow stand with 4,000 seats and includes amenities for women, is meant to cost $25 million and be constructed over 18 months.
The State Government intends to add seating and other features to the Albert Street and George Street sides of the park in later stages, ending up with roughly 10,000 seats.
Murray Street will not be closed off, and no land acquisition is involved in the project.
The feasability study detailing the entire undertaking is not publicly available, but the Premier said it found “very clearly” that Browne Park was “the right place”.
She did not, however, directly answer questions about the stadium’s complete cost.
“We’ll keep working through that,” she said, “but our money’s on the table now.
“Let’s get stage one happening and then we can move on to the next stages.”
Treasurer Cameron Dick said the idea was to make Browne Park “the home of events in Central Queensland” and stated his opposition to the Victoria Park plan.
“There’s two things about Browne Park,” he said.
“It’s not built on a dump, and it’s never been flooded.
“So why the Federal Government thinks it’s good to spend money – a very significant amount of taxpayers’ money – on a football oval that gets flooded is beyond me.”
Federal Member for Capricornia Michelle Landry said Browne Park was “not a finished product”.
“I’m really pleased that the State Labor Goverment has finally acknowledged Rockhampton and put $25 million on the table for a stadium, but what does concern me is no one knows the total cost of what Browne Park is going to be: there’s a figure of $80 million floating around,” she said.
“For them to say that the paperwork’s still in Cabinet, that they can’t release it – sounds a bit of a cop out to me.
“I just don’t want this to be another Great Keppel Island debacle.”
Ms Landry reiterated her preference for the Federal Government’s proposal, given its lower price and easier access.
“I think that Victoria Park is going to be a hub of sports,” she said.
“With Browne Park, if that is built to capacity, then people will actually have to be bussed there.
She said she had been assured the potential for flooding at Victoria Park had been dealt with.
“Most of the flooding there was actually with pipes, and they’ve actually been piped [sealed] now,” Ms Landry said.
“I’ve been told that … there shouldn’t be a problem there.”
Ms Landry said the State Government owned some of the land on which the Victoria Park stadium was supposed to be built, that Rockhampton Regional Council was the trustee of that land, and that it was leased by the Brothers Football Club; in short, that the State Government had to approve the Federal Government’s plan.
“The timing of this is quite incredible,” she said, “because it was only weeks ago that we announced $23 million for the Rockhampton Sports Club, and all of a sudden, Barry’s [Member for Rockhampton Barry O’Rourke] got $25 million for Browne Park – for part of Browne Park.
“I would hope that the State Labor Government do not play games with this: I get a bit sick and tired of political games in this town.
“This will be absolute war if they do that, because I’m not going to put up with it.
“They won’t know what’s hit them if they try and stop that stadium down at Victoria Park.”
About the possibility of Rockhampton having two stadiums, she said: “That’ll be one for the books, won’t it?”
Mr O’Rourke said there were many ways to manage parking at Browne Park.
“When you’re doing an event,” he said, “you actually incorporate the parking component into the tickets.
“I want everyone to benefit from it.”
He said there were “a number of sites where we could actually support schools or clubs where they’d actually manage that parking and run shuttle buses up through”.
LNP Rockhampton candidate Tony Hopkins said he was pleased money was being spent in Rockhampton, but he believed it would be better used on junior sport.
“I find it hard to believe they can’t find the money to finish off the Rookwood Weir to the height that’s much more beneficial to the community, and yet they can find money all of a sudden for a project that’s been on their books for over 20 years,” he said.
“I’m backing Victoria Park because when you look at the figures you get much more for your dollar where they are.”
Member for Keppel Brittany Lauga called it “a great day for Central Queensland”, and Rob Crow of the Browne Park Trust said he looked forward to Browne Park hosting various rugby codes.