UPDATE 9.30am: As exclusively revealed in The West Australian today, the Fremantle Dockers have announced a formal agreement with the City of Cockburn for a new elite training and football facility.
It is part of a $107 million plan to redevelop the Cockburn central west site with community facilities and an aquatic centre.
The Dockers will shift from their traditional training base at Fremantle Oval by 2016-17.
The Cockburn option started as part of the club’s due diligence process two years ago as it investigated the viability of a redevelopment at Fremantle Oval.
It galloped past the Dockers’ historic base as the preferred option for a training base several months ago because of the likelihood of lower building and maintenance costs, and greater long-term planning options because of greater available space at the greenfields site and the absence of heritage planning issues.
“In conjunction with a range of stakeholders, we have been working on this project for more than four years and, after an extensive due diligence process, we have reached a decision that the board believes is in the best long-term interests of the club and best meets the needs of our players, members, supporters, stakeholders and the community,” Fremantle president Steve Harris said.
“The international standard and scale of the facilities at Cockburn Central West will be world class and place the club at the absolute forefront of integrated elite sporting and community facilities in Australia.
“The joint project involving the City of Cockburn, the Fremantle Dockers and potentially Curtin University will, in time, garner a national reputation as a revolutionary model for integrated elite sporting and community facilities.
“It is a revolutionary model because it will see the development of a regional sport, health and education precinct that is able to attract and integrate with an elite sports club.”
AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou welcomed today’s announcement.
“Fremantle’s proposed partnership with the City of Cockburn is a terrific opportunity and will see the club have access to enhanced training and administrative facilities as part of an exciting new recreational centre that will benefit the growing local community,” Demetriou said.
“At the same time, I’m pleased to see the Dockers will maintain strong links with their Fremantle heartland.”
A shift to Cockburn moved a significant step closer this month when the Cockburn council approved a preliminary agreement with the club.
That agreement had a number of revised and unresolved issues to be negotiated between the council and the Dockers.
It is understood those issues were thrashed out at meetings this week ahead of today’s announcement.
Attempts by a Dockers supporters’ group to pressure the club into staying at Fremantle came up short at the club’s director elections last month when Keep Freo in Freo candidate Chris Lewis was defeated narrowly by former club skipper Peter Mann.
Mr Mann had not stated a preferred position on the site for a new training base.
Fewer than one in 10 eligible members voted, which was seen as a clear sign that members were more concerned about building the best possible facility rather than its location.
Harris said the new facility, which has a planned completion date of 2016-2017, presented an outstanding opportunity for the club to gain an advantage over its rivals in the demanding and competitive AFL landscape.
“When the club opened its current training and administration facility at Fremantle Oval in November 2000, the facilities were regarded as one of the better club facilities in the AFL,” Harris said.
“However, given the advances in the past decade nationally and internationally in technology and sports science, and an increase in the competitive landscape of the AFL, the club’s current facilities are now well behind the AFL benchmark.
“In addition to the Cockburn Central West site allowing for the development of a world-class training and administration facility not seen previously in Australia, the site, which is within the greater Fremantle Region, provides greater prospects for future expansion, community engagement and supporter interaction.”
That was a sentiment echoed by Fremantle captain Matthew Pavlich this month, when he declared the Dockers’ training facility, just over 10 years old, to be one of the two worst in the AFL.
“Let’s hurry up and make that decision, wherever it is, and build the Taj Mahal so we can get in there and get it going,” he said. “Currently, our facility is sub-standard for us to achieve what we want to do.”
Cockburn mayor Logan Howlett has said the council will look to generate $60 million to $65 million for the overall development, which is expected to cost $107 million.
WHAT THE NEW FACILITY WILL OFFER THE DOCKERS
A media release from the Dockers today highlighted what the new set-up will provide:
- AFL standard oval and access to a second oval
- 50 metre, 10 lane outdoor competition swimming pool
- 25 metre indoor swimming pool
- Hydrotherapy pool and aquatic recovery pools
- Regional multipurpose indoor training and sporting centre, including six highball courts
- Dedicated multimedia facility for the Fremantle Dockers and the local community
- Sports store, including a Fremantle Dockers’ retail outlet
- Supporter facilities (with the exact nature and size of these facilities to be determined in the next stage of design)
Additional community facilities in the current scope of the project include:
- Running and walking tracks
- Playground and picnic areas
- Health and wellness facilities, including wellness and fitness studio, gymnasium, activity rooms, rehabilitation facilities and sports medicine facilities
- Meeting and conference rooms
- Administration offices for community organisations
- Elite training facilities for local and regionally-based elite athletes
- Local community meeting and flexible space
- Community function centre, including community meeting and program space
- Curtin University education and research facilities