'Soul destroying': Rugby club pushed to brink over project
PLANS for a new rugby clubhouse that have been in the pipeline for more than 10 years have come dangerously close to falling in a heap.
The Wollongbar Alstonville Rugby Union Club has been in talks with Ballina Shire Council for a new building at the Wollongbar sports fields since 2009, but the process has still not been finalised.
That's despite plenty of hard work ‒ and with $1.15 million in the bank from grant funds and the rugby club.
Phil Hilliard from the club's building committee gave a heartfelt deputation before councillors at last week's meeting.
"The club started this journey in 2009. It's now 2020 and we still haven't got a resolution to what we're doing," he said.
"Our building committee is made up of six life members from the club and I can say that ... every single one of us was at a point where we've had enough.
"It's time to pull out.
"The process that we've had to go through has been soul destroying.
"This is the hardest project that we've ever undertaken."
Mr Hilliard said the committee was ready to hand the grant money back and go back to looking after their existing home-ground at Lyle Park.
But then they were reminded of the real reason why they had been working on the project.
"It's about the club in 10 years' time, the club in 20 years' time," Mr Hilliard said.
"We need somewhere for the younger people to come through.
"So we decided we will go ahead with the plan to build the club up on the hill, (but) we will only spend the money that we've got.
"Our biggest concern is money and we don't believe we will be able to raise enough to make it the Taj Mahal that was originally planned."
A development application for a $1.5 million facility was approved by the council in 2014.
Since then, there have been two major sticking points in the club's proposed move to the relatively new Wollongbar sports fields.
The first problem was that the rugby fields themselves are not up to scratch for games.
The second issue has been what will happen to the Lyle Park venue in the future, and whether the rugby club is fact prepared to give it up so it can be used as a multi-sport facility.
At last week's council meeting the councillors voted to support the transition of the Wollongbar Alstonville Rugby Club from Lyle Park to the Wollongbar sporting fields.
It is expected the transition will happen over a four-year period.
In the meantime, the club will be given a one-year lease for Lyle Park, which will be reviewed annually to assess against the progress of the new clubhouse, "as well as potential uses for the Lyle Park clubhouse, which may involve the existing clubhouse being occupied by sporting groups, other than the Wollongbar Alstonville Rugby Club".