Compromise plans for a revamped Footscray Park multi-use sports field has been floated in a last-ditch bid to find common ground in the divisive debate over the park’s future.
More than 1500 written submissions have been lodged with Maribyrnong council in relation to Melbourne Victory’s soccer academy proposal, with 53 per cent in support.
Petitions for and against the plan have attracted thousands of signatures, along with claims and counter-claims of misleading material being circulated.
Footscray resident Ken Betts initially threw his full support behind the project and still believes it has merit, but he said the groundswell of opposition has forced him to retract his backing for the sake of community harmony.
“My change of heart is solely based on not wanting to be part of a divided community that I love so much,” he said.
Melbourne Victory is seeking a 21-year peppercorn lease arrangement under which it would pay for construction of the academy facilities and upkeep of the site.
The lease would be via the not-for-profit academy offshoot of the football club.
The club would have priority access for 38 hours per week, predominantly in afternoons and evenings.
It argues the proposal offers improved opportunities for female participation in football and will broaden community programs to people from a wide range of backgrounds.
The heated debate over the proposal has prompted Footscray resident Chay Granger to write an open letter to Melbourne Victory supporters and the Footscray community.
He outlined pros and cons of the current plans before flagging an alternative proposal he believes would benefit the whole community.
Mr Granger said positive aspects of the current plan include re-turfing the sports field, $10 million funding from the state government and potential synergies between Melbourne Victory women’s team and community clubs, and the increased use of the space making the park safer and more family friendly.
For Mr Granger the negative aspects of the current plan include the impact on current users, a lack of parking and pedestrian access, and a lack of integration with any other sports such as AFL, cricket or little athletics.
“The draft design is extremely inefficient in allocation of scarce public resources,” he said.
Mr Granger has floated two alternative designs for the sports field area that include a training field and community club changerooms, but drop the show pitch and grandstand.
Melbourne Victory chief executive Trent Jacobs said the club was committed to existing plans at the Footscray Park location but would await the outcome of the consultation process and council decision.
Councillors will vote on the plan on August 27.