A war is brewing for control over Fremantle Oval, with the City of Fremantle pushing for the Dockers to be forced into giving up the head lease for the historic venue.
The town's AFL club yesterday moved a step closer to relocating their main hub away from Fremantle Oval after the State Government said it was putting $10 million towards a $106 million sport and recreation centre in Cockburn that will double as the Dockers' new training base.
Construction of the facility, which would include three swimming pools, a full-length oval and sports medicine studios, is due to start in February and be finished in time for the 2017 AFL season.
However, Dockers chief executive Steve Rosich said the club still intended to "maintain a presence at Fremantle Oval" despite the shift in operations.
_The Weekend West _understands the club wants to keep a retail shop at Fremantle's traditional home of football and are reluctant to give up the 56-year lease.
The City of Fremantle has written to government officials in an effort to rally support behind getting back the lease, which still has 40 years left to run.
Legal action has been discussed as an option if the Dockers block the move, although it would be considered a last resort.
City of Fremantle mayor Brad Pettitt said he had concerns that Fremantle would not willingly give up the lease.
"If the Dockers aren't going to have that as their key training facility, then we need to see this as an opportunity to open up that oval, get a range of sport uses back on to it and get it used more fully," he said.
"The worst possible outcome is that the Dockers leave and there's just a bit of a vacuum left because they still control the site."
The club, which spends about $150,000 on ground maintenance at Fremantle, is able to restrict use of the site by third parties.
WAFL clubs East Fremantle and South Fremantle are understood to be willing to discuss becoming joint tenants so long as the lease does not remain with the Dockers.
The Dockers will contribute about $14 million to their new base, with the City of Cockburn pitching in $65 million. Mr Rosich said up to $8 million of the club's contribution would be taken from existing reserves, with the rest needing to be raised.
Treasurer Mike Nahan said it was the community aspects of the project that attracted public funding and he urged the West Coast Eagles, who were denied $20 million for a base at Lathlain Park, to rework their proposal.
"As an Eagles supporter, I would like them to come back and think about it," he said.
West Coast chairman Alan Cransberg said the Eagles were not discouraged and still expected the planned facility to be finished in time for the 2018 season.