Is the Leichhardt Oval equipped to host professional sport?
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The recent incident which fortunately avoided serious injuries at Leichhardt Oval proved one thing: local governments are incapable of maintaining stadiums for their communities.
Inner West Labor Councilor Cr Philippa Scott put it this way in a statement on Facebook: ‘This is infrastructure that has been neglected to the point of detrimental collapse.’
Wests Tigers chairman Lee Hagipantelis described it this way: “What happened on Saturday is indicative of the potential for what can happen across the venue.
“This is very concerning. I said the facilities at Leichhardt were substandard, I described them as third world and borderline dangerous.
Still, he still wants to play on the spot and asks for an upgrade.
This, despite over a billion dollars being spent upgrading two nearby stadiums, Sydney Football Stadium in Moore Park and CommBank Stadium in Parramatta.
There is no endless money pit to fund nostalgia.
Leichhardt Oval is in a terrible position, sunk into a peninsula, surrounded by residential neighbours. Access is via narrow suburban streets punctuated by parked cars from homes without garages.
The nearest rail access is Leichhardt North light rail station, about a ten minute walk away.
Light rail customers must negotiate the crossing of one of Sydney’s busiest roads, the City West Link, to get to and from the stadium.
In short, the access is horrible.
There is a future for Leichhardt Oval. It’s just not a place for professional sports.
In recent years, the number of events at Leichhardt has swelled due to the reconstruction of the SFS.
Temporary tenants have included Sydney FC and the NSW Waratahs. But with the SFS opening imminent, both teams likely played their last games at Leichhardt.
The Wests Tigers only play three competitive matches and one Test match per year at the venue.
Does four pro sports games a year qualify for a $50 million upgrade?
Instead, Leichhardt Oval should be returned to the community. Open doors 365 days a year!
Let dog walkers, local school children, young athletes and emerging talent train and play on site.
Both state and local government should help secure the site by decommissioning the grandstand and making it a true community asset.
After all, if a local government the size of the Inner West Council cannot currently maintain it, how would the Leichhardt Council if the proposed de-amalgamation were to materialize?