By Aleksandra Bliszczyk
The City of Whittlesea lsat week announced a new synthetic pitch would be installed at Lalor United Sloga Football Club in October.
The council has also applied for a grant through the Community Sports Infrastructure Stimulus Program to enhance further works.
The home turf of soccer club hasn’t had any upgrades since the club moved to the site in 1979.
The deteriorating surface condition of the natural turf means that HR Uren Recreation Reserve, Thomastown, no longer meets Football Victoria’s minimum facility standards, or the needs of the broader community.
Further upgrades include a pavilion and carpark extension, and the creation of a multi-purpose social space that will be available for community use and provide recreational participation opportunities for residents.
Council applied for the grant after receiving an invitation from Sport and Recreation Victoria. If approved, the $3.7 million in funding will increase the scale of the upgrades.
Club coordinator Emil Atanasov said the club had been pushing for upgrades for years and was grateful to council for getting the ball rolling.
“Over the years it’s been ditches here, ditches there. Council do their best to try and fit it, but 42 years of people playing on it and not being resurfaced, there’s a lot of wear and tear,” he said.
“That ground will be fixed and it will be immaculate. It will be synthetic and it will be exactly what the new generation wants.
“The other extension we’ve been pushing for a long time because our numbers are up but there’s nowhere for people to meet and greet, all we have is change rooms, so we’re very grateful to council for all the work they’ve put in.”
At last month’s council meeting, director of community wellbeing Kate McCaughey said the grant application delayed the construction, but the added funding would be better for the club in the long term.
“Lalor Football Club has been consulted through the development of the proposal, and whilst they’re supportive of the project they’re naturally disappointed about the proposed delay that this might cause. But they are very supportive of council’s approach to apply for the SRV grant because of the enhanced amount of works that we’ll be able to achieve,” she said.
“In some ways delaying the project while we wait to sync with the grant application is actually advantageous for the club’s fixturing as this pushes the [construction] commencement date until after the regular soccer season.”
Works on the pitch will commence in October and are due to be completed before the start of the 2022 soccer season in March. Design work is underway for the pavilion and carpark extensions.
“We’re assuming it’s going to attract a lot more people in the area,” Mr Atanasov said.
“We expect girls’ numbers to be up [and] junior numbers to be up.”
Lalor United Football Club is one of the largest football clubs in the municipality, with more than 300 members across 22 teams, consisting of four senior men’s, three junior girls’, four junior boys’ and 11 mini-roos teams.
The extension will provide the pavilion the potential to accommodate for non-sport community groups such as the Tamil/Hindu community, seniors’ groups and gentle exercise.