News / Sport

Hockey club looks to Coburg for new field

New pitch on Bell Street would cost $1.7 million as club seeks to accomodate growing player numbers

Brunswick’s Vic League 1 Reserves women in action earlier this year against Monash. Photo: Facebook

Mark Phillips
Friday, September 16, 2022

A LACK of space has forced Brunswick Hockey Club to look further afield for a new pitch to accommodate its rapidly growing number of players.

McDonald Reserve in Coburg has emerged as the preferred option for a second hockey pitch following a year-long feasibility study by Moreland City Council that cost $40,000.

The site, which is on Bell Street near the former Pentridge prison, will now be further investigated with estimates that redeveloping it for hockey would cost about $1.7 million as the first stage of a potential $14 million revamp which would include a multi-use community pavilion.

Moreland councillors on Wednesday chose McDonald Reserve over Parker Reserve in North Coburg after a consultant was unable to identify an appropriate site in Brunswick.

The hockey club, which will celebrate its centenary next year, has been experiencing unprecedented growth in recent years with 475 registered player members and 30 teams in the recent 2022 season, making it one of the largest clubs in the state.

Since 2008, it has played and trained on a synthetic pitch at Brunswick Secondary College, but the pitch is now at close to full capacity by use for 51 hours a week, and struggling to accommodate the 10% annual growth of the last five years.

“Some nights four teams train on the ground at the same time,” club spokesman Dean Paatsch said, adding that the club currently made do without facilities such as spectator seating, showers, or a coaches’ shelter.

The council commissioned a feasibility study in June last year to explore future options.

The club’s preference was to locate the second pitch in Brunswick, and its suggestions included Clifton Park and Holbrook Reserve.

But it is understood that the consultants soon concluded that there was no suitable space for a new pitch within Brunswick, forcing them to search further north and eventually presenting two options to the council.

Councillors voted to pursue the McDonald Reserve option despite council officers recommending that any decision be deferred to next year after a current review of open space throughout the city was completed.

McDonald Reserve is currently used by soccer clubs for training and also has six tennis courts.

Mr Paatsch said the club was happy the council had adopted its preferred option for the new pitch. He said Parker Reserve, which is near the Coburg drive-in, would have been too far from where the majority of the club’s players lived.

“It [McDonald] is close to public transport with the new Coburg railway station up the road so that means we can service the student cohort and there’s also ample overflow car parking nearby at the council buildings,” he said.

“It’s already a sporting precinct and has no neighbours on three sides so we can minimise the impact on neighbourhood amenity. It’s on Bell Street which is a very busy road which means huge exposure and is fabulous for signage.

“At McDonald we can also maximise the social dividend and community benefit; because of its position alongside Coburg High we can make available an all-weather surface for one of the most underfunded inner city schools.”

While the feasibility study estimated that the cost of redeveloping McDonald Reserve would be between $10-14 million, Mr Paatsch said a basic hockey pitch with lighting and temporary toilets could be delivered for less than $2 million.

He said the reserve could be redeveloped in stages, and at a later stage a multi-use pavilion could be added that would be available to community groups and the high school to use.

“We’re quite happy with a non-rolled gold plated version to begin with,” Mr Paatsch said.

The council decision will allow detailed investigation and consultation to go ahead for the McDonald Reserve option, but no construction would be likely to start until 2024 at the earliest.

At Wednesday’s meeting, councillors warned the project was still at a very early stage and was not a done deal.

Cr Sue Bolton said the decision did not mean a hockey field would definitely be built at McDonald Reserve, merely that it would be investigated further.

“There’s got to be a lot of discussion to happen to make sure everything is kosher with all of the groups [affected],” she said.

Cr James Conlan said it was still possible unused industrial land in Brunswick might be found as an alternative location for hockey which would minimise the loss of open green space.

An alternative motion by Cr Annalivia Carli Hannan for the council to also explore a second pitch for soccer and football at McDonald Reserve was not supported.

Separately, Brunswick City Soccer Club has appealed to the council for help to improve its playing facilities at Dunstan Reserve in Brunswick West.

Club president Peter Kyriopoulos said during a recent club survey, 75% of respondents expressed strong dissatisfaction with the quality of the Dunstan Reserve surface which was often unusable following heavy rain.

“We have had over 200 training sessions cancelled this season alone due to poor ground conditions,” he said. This was exacerbated by the reserve also being used as an off-leash dog park.

Mr Kyriopoulos said the club wanted capital works to improve Dunstan Reserve and to have access to the synthetic field at CB Smith Reserve in Fawkner for 90 minutes a fortnight to reduce the burden on Dunstan Reserve.