Wallsend MP Sonia Hornery fully supports a new basketball stadium in Newcastle.
She just doesn’t believe the site for the multi-million project, currently proposed opposite McDonald Jones Stadium, is the right location.
In fact, the popular local member feels Hunter Park would be more appropriate for the facility, which is expected to cost about $39m.
“I’ve held serious concerns about the proposed location since the Lord Mayor announced it on the eve of the 2023 NSW Election with zero consultation,” Ms Hornery said.
“After discussing this issue with a variety of stakeholders, including Newcastle Basketball, Lambton High P&C, Newcastle District Cricket and a number of local residents, my fears remain.
“I think all can agree that the existing basketball stadium is not fit for purpose and the sport deserves an upgrade in our region.
“However, the proposal launched by Cr Nuatali Nelmes to build it on Wallarah and Blackley ovals in Lambton was not the right call.
“The site, Crown Land leased and managed by council, is currently occupied by Newcastle District Cricket and the Lambton Jaffas Juniors.
“It would be grossly unfair to disadvantage two existing sporting codes at the locale to favour another when there are other, and better, options.”
Ms Hornery said there were additional factors to be considered as well.
“Lambton High School is located next to the ovals, the school pays a yearly fee to Crown Lands to use these grounds as sporting areas for their students,” she explained.
“Lambton High’s a notoriously concrete school, so it would be a blow to the pupils to give up this area, right on their doorstep.
“This was acknowledged when a survey of parents was taken by the Lambton High P&C, which showed more than 75% of them favoured retaining the site as undeveloped ovals for the school.
“The grounds are directly adjacent to a large stormwater drain and they act as overflow in extreme flooding events.
“With this option removed, there could be serious danger to local residents… this must be taken into consideration if the site is developed.
“Lastly, we need to consider the local residents.
“Street parking is already dwindling and the narrow surrounding streets will not support the vast amount of traffic for a big basketball game.
“Most residents in nearby areas don’t want a large development so close to them.”
Ms Hornery admitted there was a “very clear and simple solution”.
And, it lies directly across the road in the proposed Hunter Park precinct.
“This is where the existing stadium already is,” she said.
“A basketball facility could easily be included in the plans with minimal fuss and would co-exist well with the existing Hunter Stadium and planned new Entertainment Centre.
“In my mind, it is foolish to build a new stadium, which would cause so many issues across the road when there is a perfectly viable option in Hunter Park that could be carefully explored.
“I will be raising this proposal with the relevant Ministers and calling for a sensible approach that won’t negatively impact so many people and organisations.
“For the reasons I have stated, I’ll be publicly opposing this development in my electorate.
“Yes, Newcastle Basketball needs and deserves a new stadium.
“However, let’s put it in a sensible area – an actual sport and entertainment precinct not a residential area.”
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