WHILE debate continues over the virtues of a purpose-built rectangular sports ground, a man who knows better than most what’s needed by local footballers and their fans is arguing Orange already has a “fantastic” facility.
Orange CYMS’ victory over Oberon Tigers on the weekend means the Group 10 grand finals will be played at Wade Park on Sunday, September 10, the fifth time in eight years the venue will host the deciders.
Orange City Council has purchased land for a state-of-the-art stadium on Priest Lane to the city’s north, with high hopes of securing funding for its construction in the coming years.
While conceding that facility would certainly help attract events like NRL games, CYMS president Dave Penny said Wade Park had repeatedly shown itself to be a “fantastic” venue for needs of the local competition, especially at the spectator-heavy grand finals.
“It’s got so much going for it,” Mr Penny said.
“The split changing rooms mean four sides can use them at one time, the hills at either end are great for spectators and there’s plenty of parking around the perimetre of the field for less-mobile people.
“The only drawback is that because it was designed for cricket the grandstand is probably a bit too far away from the action.”
Mr Penny said he’d hoped for a “complete refurbishment” of Wade Park as a football ground, but with work about to get under way on a $2.2 million indoor cricket academy at the Moulder Street site, that appears to be a remote possibility moving forward.
Instead, should funding be secured and the stadium erected, CYMS’ and Hawks’ Group 10 games will likely be held at the north Orange ground, an eventuality which Mr Penny sees as problematic.
“There’s accessibility issues there,” he said.
“Lots of people like to head to a pub for a drink and then walk up to watch the footy. That can’t happen at the other site.”
Wade Park’s readiness for Sunday week will undergo a dress rehearsal of sorts this Saturday when seven junior grand finals – featuring six Orange sides – will be played there.
The prospect of a purpose-built north Orange facility has been a divisive issue since its inception, with candidates for next Saturday’s council election wading into the debate.
Asked if he supported the complex, Bernard Fitzsimon argued unless it “can attract at least six major events each year it will simply become yet another white elephant subsidised by ratepayers”.
Joanne McRae said she did “not believe this expenditure or facility is warranted, and I would much prefer to see the upgrading of existing facilities”.
Deputy mayor Jason Hamling is a big fan of the northern site, previously stating “people want Orange City Council to try and attract sporting events out here”.
“I love Wade Park, it has a lot of history and will continue to. We are upgrading Wade Park but I think a city the size of Orange, we need a dedicated sporting precinct outside of that ground,” he said.